Monday, June 13, 2022

Grift for the Mill


Image by Yellow Scene Magazine, December 2020.

A surprise, at least to me but I believe to pretty much everybody, in today's Select Committee hearing, was the video shown at the end. While the rest of the day was devoted as scheduled to showing how widespread the knowledge was in the administration that the stories of election fraud were entirely false, and Trump was repeatedly told they were false, the last bit was about something Trump did with the lies, which was to raise money, some $250 million worth by January 6 2021, as Washington Post live-blogged it, under very Trumpy false pretenses:

Amanda Wick, a committee investigator who has previously prosecuted financial crimes, said the Trump campaign sent millions of fundraising emails between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021. The emails asked supporters to “step up to protect the integrity of the election” and promoted an “Official Election Defense Fund.”

The committee, Wick said, “discovered no such fund existed.” Instead, it was a “marketing tactic,” as a senior digital adviser on the Trump campaign confirmed to investigators.

I'd just like the record to show I was telling you guys about this back in December 2020, on the basis of WaPo reporting, how money raised by the frantic emails after the election loss was actually ending up mostly in Trump's "leadership PAC" Save America (a leadership PAC is a vehicle through which politicians can do things from which a normal campaign committee is prohibited—like spending it on personal stuff.

It's Save America, which started out taking 60% of the contributions raised for the fictional "Official Election Defense Fund" and has been taking 75% since 19 November, and Trump can do whatever he wants with that three-scoops share. 

The story doesn't suggest he might just put it in his own bank account, in other words, but it's pretty clear he could, without any consequences; FEC just doesn't look at leadership PAC spending. It's one of those norms nobody ever thinks of violating. Even young Duncan Hunter only stole his $250,000 from his personal campaign committee; if he'd ripped off his leadership PAC instead (every congressman has one), he would not be in prison today. One of those norms, like presidents releasing their tax returns, or putting their financial interests in a blind trust, or not running businesses where foreign diplomats could spend millions of dollars in return for a favor, that Trump has specialized in ignoring.

You see what I'm saying: Trump, and his full partner in the Trump Make America Great Again Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel, are raising this money under blatantly false pretenses, not because they have any hope whatever of reversing the election and keeping their promise to the donors, but because they just want the money; McDaniel perhaps only for "legitimate" campaign purposes, but there's no reason to assume Trump wouldn't use it to pay off his and his family's personal lawyers in their own jungle of litigation (as he's been known to do, illegally, with contributions to his charity), or indeed just salt millions away for himself, maybe in those bizarre golf course account books.

Only. now, the Committee seems to have some idea exactly where the money is going:

That PAC, Save America, has sent millions of dollars to allies and former officials in the Trump White House, as Wick detailed. More than $200,000 has gone to the Trump Hotel Collection.

The committee has been looking for this information, starting with a subpoena for records from the Republican National Committee's fundraising vendor, a company called Salesforce:

the subpoena to Salesforce would help investigators understand the impact of the false messages sent before January 6, the flow of funds and whether contributions to the RNC and Trump campaign were directed to the purpose indicated in the fundraising emails. 

RNC sued to stop them in early March, and a (Trump-appointed) judge ruled in favor of the House committee on 2 May, but RNC got an injunction on 25 May that would effectively stop the House from getting the information before the hearings, but it looks like it has some other sources:

...The Select Committee no longer seeks the Salesforce documentation on a highly expedited schedule, and the Select Committee will continue to evaluate its needs for information on these and other related issues as additional material potentially becomes available from other sources.”

Can't help thinking Roger Stone and his thugs might have been among the recipients of all this cash, not to mention Rudolph Giuliani and his shysters, and that there's a real case of wire fraud against Trump and Mrs. McDaniel lurking in here. We'll see.

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