The Slatest

Donald Trump Is Keeping the Money

Trump makes a funny face while wrapping his arms around an American flag.
Never letting go. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The rub was always in the fine print. Even after Donald Trump, the actual president of the United States, lost the 2020 election, he cranked up the outrage machine claiming election fraud, hinting at grand conspiracies, and sending Rudy Giuliani barnstorming to provide visuals, footage, new cautious news stories, that could be used to help spin the many, many yarns he was spinning on the fly. Meanwhile, Trump and his associated PACs raked in hundreds of millions on the chaos, confusion, and destruction. Their fundraising emails shouted things like “We MUST defend the Election from the Left!” as they soaked up cash from low-dollar donors who believed the president. The small print at the bottom whispered something very different: The first 75 percent of these #StoptheSteal donations to the Trump fundraising apparatus were redirected to Trump’s Save America leadership PAC, which was for Trump to spend more or less as he wished.

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The entirety of Donald Trump’s life so far has been, essentially, a string of grifts, and so it’s unsurprising that his presidential (and post-presidential) life has been no different. The election outrage that Trump fomented in pockets of deep-red Trump country has shaken the democratic foundations of the country and, once again, allowed Trump to pull off a sleight of hand and pocket tens of millions of dollars. The Washington Post reports that Trump’s Save America leadership PAC, which raised some $75 million in the first half of 2021 on the back of his barrage of lies about the 2020 election, has yet to spend any of that money in support the recounts, ballot reviews, and other shenanigans he inspired in Republican-run statehouses across the country. Ahead of the July 31 filing date for how the organization has spent its money, Trump confidantes explained to the Post that Trump was “uninterested in personally bankrolling the efforts, relying on other entities and supporters to fund the endeavors.”

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Instead, Trump’s keeping the money to play around with—though a Trump adviser dutifully clung to the Trump election racket, telling the Post that Trump had not ruled out spending the money on state ballot review efforts “at some point down the road.” Uh-huh. Instead, the money has gone to funding Trump’s professional lifestyle, which is inextricably intertwined with Trump’s personal existence and the ecosystem of Trump’s long grift. That long play may involve running for president again, though it may not, but either way it requires relevance and a platform, both of which are made possible by those large wads of cash. The money demands attention from candidates, voters, and therefore media; the attention, in turn, produces more cash. So Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere because he has finally found a swindle in American politics where he can quite literally just ask people for money and they simply give it to him by the millions. It’s not complicated. It never is with Trump. He’s just doing the thing he telegraphed he would do from the very beginning and stated explicitly in the small print.

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