Jamie Dimon isn't one to hide his love away. Soon after Donald Trump was elected, Dimon said the new president would usher in “a reset moment for how businesses are going to be treated” and enthused that “President-elect Trump is different from candidate Trump.” Although he ended up squandering his chance to be Treasury Secretary, the JPMorgan boss still took a seat on Trump's business policy forum. And last week he reiterated his Trump support to Business Insider: “People get boxed up in personalities and stuff like that. The Trump administration's [economic] agenda is the right agenda.”
Trump has returned the affection. “There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie,” the president said at the signing for his executive order that would and would not end Dodd-Frank.
But now Jamie is dialing back his Trump-love, if only a couple notches. Pressed at JPMorgan's annual meeting Tuesday over policies like the border wall and Trump's Muslim-specific immigration restrictions, Dimon stood up to clarify:
He is the president of the United States, he is the pilot flying the airplane. I’d try to help any president of the US because I’m a patriot. That does not mean I agree with every policy he is trying to implement.
The patriot line isn't new. Neither is the airplane thing. What is new is the suggestion that he disagrees (god forbid!) with some of Trump's policies. Which isn't nothing. In the strange and delicate world of Trump consigliere, even the most minor criticism can mean excommunication. So one has to be careful to maintain access to the cockpit.
Compare, for instance, Dimon's response to Trump's late January immigration order to that of Lloyd Blankfein. Lloyd: “This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court.” Jamie: “In light of recent executive orders in the United States regarding immigration policy, we want every one of you to know of our unwavering commitment to the dedicated people working here at JPMorgan Chase.” Someone's hedging a bit more.
The pushback Dimon is facing now shouldn't be a surprise. His decision to declare unswerving allegiance to the most-despised president in modern times makes sense from a business perspective, with Congress still debating critical regulatory matters such as “what exactly do we want the words ‘20th Century Glass-Steagall’ to mean?” But at a certain point Dimon's calculation might have to include the hey-maybe-that's-just-a-bad-look metric. How long do you want someone who just blurted out national secrets in a meeting with Russian diplomats – among other worrisome developments – to be the guy piloting your plane?