After billionaire former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced on Sunday that he was “seriously thinking of running for President,” as CNN reported, Donald Trump could not resist taking to his Twitter account to lash out at the 65-year-old, who said that if he were to run, he would align himself with neither major political party.
But for Trump, it was not Schultz’s stated pledge to run as a “centrist independent” that drew an angry reaction, but the simple fact that Schultz would announce his potential candidacy at all.
“Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President!” Trump wrote Monday morning on Twitter.
“Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest person.’ Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!”
Trump’s claim that America already has a “smartest person” was presumably a reference to himself. As ABC News recently documented, Trump has a long history of publicly declaring himself “smart,” describing himself in public statements as having a “very good brain,” and being “like, a smart person.”
In an interview that aired on the CBS News program 60 Minutes on Sunday, as the Washington Post reported, Schultz said that he had “a long history of recognizing I’m not the smartest person in the room, that in order to make great decisions about complex problems I have to recruit and attract people who are smarter than me.”
Trump’s line expressing hope that Starbucks, the international coffeehouse chain, is “still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!” also drew attention, due to the fact that when he assumed the Oval Office, Trump promised to “completely isolate” himself from his business interests, as CNN reported, placing his assets in a trust fund over which he has no control. However, his claim to be personally collecting rent from a Starbucks location in Trump Tower would appear to contradict that earlier pledge.
While Trump seemed to be daring Schultz to oppose him in the 2020 presidential election, Democrats and other political opponents of Trump responded to Schultz’s 60 Minutes interview by imploring the Starbucks billionaire — whose worth is estimated at $3.3 billion, according to Forbes — not to run on an independent ticket, fearing that he could draw votes from Trump’s Democratic opponent while having no chance to win himself.
“Vanity projects that help destroy democracy are disgusting,” said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center For American Progress, as quoted by NBC News. “If he enters the race, I will start a Starbucks boycott because I’m not giving a penny that will end up in the election coffers of a guy who will help Trump win.”