Wall Street

Lloyd Blankfein: I still have hope for Trump

Key Points
  • Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein says the White House is working through its growing pains.
  • There's nothing bad about populism, he said, but it can cross the line into demagoguery.
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein hasn't completely given up hope that Washington will be able to get things done.

Blankfein, who has trolled the Trump administration on the social media site Twitter, told the audience at a European banking conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, via a live-feed interview from New York, that the White House is working through its growing pains.

President Donald Trump has never been a politician, "so this is all new," Blankfein said during the interview with the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt.

"Things could have gone better, but I'm not without hope that they can still go well," Blankfein said Wednesday. "A lot that he's trying to accomplish I'm friendly to. ... Clearly, there is some level of disappointment that things are more chaotic, but hopeful that the government will get better. I have disappointment, but also I have hope."

On Tuesday, the Goldman chief executive put a message on his verified Twitter account that took aim at Trump's decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.

He has also used Twitter in recent months to take shots at the administration's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and make other more veiled criticisms. Trump is a frequent commentator on Twitter.

Asked about his tweets during the interview on Wednesday, Blankfein said as a corporate leader he feels the obligation to speak out. "There are some things we have a duty to talk about," he said. "Sometimes as the CEO of a big company I have to be a champion of the interest of our people to do their job and feel comfortable."

Asked if he favored the reappointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen or the appointment of his former Goldman second-in-command Gary Cohn as the central bank's next leader, Blankfein said both are up to the job but have very different styles.

Yellen has "done a pretty good job," and Cohn would be less of an academic and theoretical choice. "I'd be willing to give that a try," Blankfein said. "He would do a different job but a great job."

At the end of the interview, Blankfein returned to the topic of Washington turmoil. "The worst thing for your and my happiness is political instability," he said. "Populism by itself is not a bad thing, to appeal to people is not a bad thing, that's what democracy is supposed to accomplish. I think there is a line in which populism can cross over into demagoguery."