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Meg Whitman, a Hewlett Packard executive and Republican fund-raiser, said Tuesday that she would support Hillary Clinton for president and give a âsubstantialâ contribution to her campaign in order to stop Donald J. Trump, whom she berated as a threat to American democracy.
âI will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,â Ms. Whitman said in a telephone interview.
She revealed that Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had reached out to her in a phone call about a month ago, one of the first indications that Mrs. Clinton is aggressively courting Republican leaders. While acknowledging she diverged from Mrs. Clinton on many policy issues, Ms. Whitman said it was time for Republicans âto put country first before party.â
Using remarkably blunt language, she argued that the election of Mr. Trump, whom she called âa dishonest demagogue,â could lead the country âon a very dangerous journey.â She noted that democracies had seldom lasted longer than a few hundred years and warned that those who say that âit canât happen hereâ are being naÃ¯ve.
Ms. Whitman also said she âabsolutelyâ stood by her comments at a private gathering of Republican donors this year comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, explaining that dictators often come to office through democratic means.
âTime and again history has shown that when demagogues have gotten power or come close to getting power, it usually does not end well,â Ms. Whitman said. She asserted that Mr. Trump had already âundermined the character of the nation.â
A billionaire who spent $ 140 million of her own money in a failed bid for governor of California in 2010, Ms. Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, is a prized defector for Mrs. Clinton. She is close to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee; has deep ties to the countryâs business elite; and is a rare female Republican executive in Silicon Valley.
While many leading Republican donors have made clear that they will not donate to Mr. Trump, few have taken the next step of throwing their support, and financial largess, to Mrs. Clinton.
Ms. Whitman was a leading fund-raiser for Mr. Romneyâs 2008 presidential campaign and was a chairwoman of Gov. Chris Christieâs presidential finance team this year. But after Mr. Christie withdrew from the campaign and endorsed Mr. Trump, Ms. Whitman excoriated the New Jersey governor for what she said was an âastonishing display of political opportunism.â
On Tuesday, Ms. Whitman said she had not spoken to Mr. Christie since he endorsed Mr. Trump, and pointedly noted that she had not changed her view of his decision.
Ms. Whitman, who said she would remain a Republican, brings with her a considerable network of contributors, some of whom she said were open to giving to Mrs. Clinton. She said she was willing to campaign for Mrs. Clinton, said she would do her best to gather checks for her campaign and indicated she would personally give to both Mrs. Clinton and her affiliated âsuper PACs.â An aide to Ms. Whitman said she would personally give at least an amount in the âmid-six figuresâ to the Clinton effort.
While Democrats openly appealed at their convention last week to Republicans uneasy with Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton and her top supporters have been making a similar cross-party pitch in private since before the Democratic nomination fight even came to its conclusion.
Ms. Whitman said that she did not commit to supporting Mrs. Clinton when they talked on the phone last month, and that Mrs. Clinton had offered no assurances on how she would govern. But Ms. Whitman called it âa lovely chatâ that included a discussion of economic issues.
She said she had told Mrs. Clinton that she wanted to see the two partiesâ conventions and assess the running mates that each nominee chose before making her decision. When Mrs. Clinton selected Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a consensus-oriented figure, âthat was a positive for me,â Ms. Whitman said.
âI donât agree with her on very many issues,â she added, âbut she would be a much better president than Donald Trump.â