One of Donald Trump’s biggest backers in Silicon Valley is renouncing his support for the president in the wake of last week’s riot at the Capitol, Recode has learned.
Doug Leone, a billionaire investor who donated big money to Trump and even served on a White House task force, is making his first public comments to date about his years-long support for Trump. Leone, a longtime head of the elite venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, has tried to keep a low profile but has drawn fire for being one of the few major tech figures to actively back Trump.
“After last week’s horrific events, President Trump lost many of his supporters, including me,” Leone said in a statement to Recode. “The actions of the President and other rally speakers were responsible for inciting the rioters. We need to find the best way to move forward as a country, get behind our newly-elected President, and start working on the many difficult issues facing America.”
Leone’s condemnation is the latest sign that the tech industry is showing less tolerance for Trump after last week’s attempt to avoid certifying the vote of the Electoral College. Some tech companies have changed their political donation strategies, and other leaders are discussing ways to ensure that Trump supporters or aides aren’t welcomed back into Silicon Valley’s warm embrace.
Despite its liberal sensibilities, Silicon Valley does have conservatives — but proud Trump supporters have consistently been few and far between. Leone has stood out for that very reason.
Leone and his wife, Patti, donated over $700,000 to back Trump’s reelection campaign, making them among the biggest total contributors to pro-Trump causes in the Bay Area, according to a review of FEC records. They donated to everything from pro-Trump super PACs to the Republican National Committee.
A longtime backer of GOP candidates dating back to George W. Bush’s first campaign for president, Leone has also recently donated heavily to groups supporting Trump allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham and the Republicans who ran for the Senate this month in Georgia.
Leone’s support of the president has gone beyond being merely a donor — he has cultivated ties to the Trump administration as well. Leone was the only major Silicon Valley figure named to a White House task force this spring on the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery. And this summer, Leone reportedly told “people he could use his influence with Trump to help” TikTok, the Chinese app that is owned by a Sequoia portfolio company and spent months in the middle of a regulatory firestorm.
All of those ties make Leone’s statement more significant.
Meanwhile, other prominent Silicon Valley supporters of Trump are staying quiet. Peter Thiel, perhaps Trump’s single most famous backer in the tech industry, has said nothing since the election about the results or Trump’s recent behavior. A Thiel spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment last week. Oracle founder Larry Ellison, one of the richest people in the world, hosted a fundraiser for Trump earlier this year and has grown close to him. A spokesperson for Ellison didn’t return repeated requests for comment.
One of the prominent voices in Silicon Valley encouraging a reconsideration in the business community is actually Leone’s close colleague, Michael Moritz, who donated millions to back Democrats this cycle. Moritz and Leone served as the two co-leaders of Sequoia for years, likely making for some spirited conversations between the two of them about politics during the Trump years.
“Almost five years ago, I tried, in vain, to highlight for the business community Mr. Trump’s past as a conman, bully, racist, failed entrepreneur and authoritarian,” Moritz wrote in a column published in the Financial Times on Monday, not mentioning Leone or any specific business leader by name. “Many business people scoffed at this portrait of Mr. Trump — preferring to support him because they liked many of his policies. Their arguments always reminded me of the Prussian military leaders and German business magnates who thought they could control the dark tendencies of an army corporal turned political strongman in the 1920s.”
Trump is now facing impeachment as some of his stalwart supporters like Leone turn against him.
Here’s Leone’s full statement to Recode:
I strongly condemn the attack on the US Capitol and all acts of violence. Assaults on our democracy will not move our nation forward, and those who stormed the Capitol should be held accountable and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. After last week’s horrific events, President Trump lost many of his supporters, including me. The actions of the President and other rally speakers were responsible for inciting the rioters. We need to find the best way to move forward as a country, get behind our newly-elected President, and start working on the many difficult issues facing America.