I will reiterate what I have said many times before. The Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump.
GOP Strategist Stuart Stevens, author of “It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump,” was recently interviewed on MSNBC and came to the same conclusion.
Former top strategist for Romney campaign Stuart Stevens on MSNBC discussing Don Jr. trying to take over RNC: “The entire Trump Campaign is a criminal operation. They need to control it so people cannot see what is happening. It’s a money laundering operation.”
— Robert J. DeNault (@robertjdenault) November 11, 2020
The most “benign” take that politicians and pundits have offered for Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election and to proceed with a smooth transition of power — a take that ignores the substantial harm being done by undermining faith in our elections and our democratic institutions — is that Donald Trump, the greatest con man and grifter in American history, and the Trump crime family are just trying to cash in and set up a future revenue stream of grifting before leaving the White House. His MAGA cult members are easy marks and a gift that will keep on giving.
Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, Trump’s election challenge looks like a scam to line his pockets:
President Trump isn’t really trying to overturn the election. He’s simply running one more scam before he leaves office that would enable him to enrich himself.
That’s the way it appears, at least, from the scores of fundraising emails his campaign has sent out since the election. He seems to be asking for funds to challenge the election, but the fine print shows that the money could let him line his own coffers. The tin-pot-dictator routine looks more as if it’s about passing the tin cup.
“They’re trying to STEAL this Election,” declared one such Trump campaign fundraising missive from “Donald J. Trump, President of the United States” on Wednesday afternoon. “I promise you my team is fighting the clock to DEFEND the integrity of this Election, but we cannot do it alone. We need EVERY Patriot, like YOU, to step up and make sure we have the resources to keep going. … Please contribute ANY AMOUNT RIGHT NOW to DEFEND the Election.”
But at the provided link to the “OFFICIAL ELECTION DEFENSE FUND,” the legalese at the end says something rather different:
Sixty percent of the contribution, up to $5,000, goes to “Save America,” Trump’s newly created leadership PAC. And 40 percent of the contribution up to $35,500, goes to the Republican National Committee’s operating account, its political (not legal) fund.
Only after reaching the first maximum would a single penny go to Trump’s “Recount Account,” and only after reaching the second maximum would a penny go to the RNC’s legal account.
“It’s a straight-up bait and switch,” Paul S. Ryan, the vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, tells me. Such email solicitations target small donors, so for the “overwhelming majority of people contributing … none of their money will end up in recount accounts” or be used for otherwise challenging the election.
Rather, it will be used to extend Trump’s influence over the RNC during the Biden presidency and to build up his leadership PAC, which amounts to a “slush fund” for Trump’s personal use. “There is no limit to how much Donald Trump can pay himself or any member of his family under ‘Save America,’” Ryan notes.
Earlier versions of the “election defense fund” email solicitations indicated the funds were to be used to retire Trump’s campaign debt. “Presumably he raised enough to retire that debt,” says Ryan, “and he’s building this new slush fund.”
Should we be surprised?
Trump has used the presidency itself for self-enrichment, so there’s no reason to think an election defeat would stop him. He has funneled vast amounts of taxpayer dollars and political supporters’ funds to his hotels, golf clubs and various properties around the world. Over the years, he has used his charity for self-benefit, he has had favorable treatment by foreign governments, and he has had hundreds of millions in debt forgiven by creditors.
As The Post’s David Fahrenthold wrote last month, Trump’s properties have billed taxpayers at least $2.5 million for such things as: $7,000 for a dinner, $6,000 for flowers, $17,000 monthly for a cottage, up to $650 a night for hotel rooms, $1,000 for drinks for the White House staff and even $3 for drinking water.
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But the contest-the-election scam is a dangerous game. Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the Biden transition jeopardizes national security by leaving the United States vulnerable in a way the 9/11 Commission specifically warned about. It’s further discrediting the institutions of American democracy (the Trump-backing Republican secretary of state of Georgia now faces calls for his resignation from fellow Republican officeholders and death threats for simply doing his job). And it’s further paralyzing the country by falsely convincing millions of Trump supporters that something untoward happened in the election.
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Republican lawmakers, led by the shameless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Senate provocateur-in-residence Ted Cruz (Tex.), are indulging Trump’s nonsense claims, regardless of the harm to national security and confidence in U.S. elections.
And in doing so, they’re helping to scam their own supporters into further enriching Trump.
Anita Kumar at Politico explains, Trump’s post-presidency: Stay relevant, make money, avoid indictment:
It all finally caught up to Donald Trump.
Trump, who built a brand on projecting indestructibility, has been branded as something he despises: a loser.
Trump, 74, was born into a wealthy family, built a global business (with a
few six bankruptcies along the way), became a reality TV star and then won the presidency with no political experience. It allowed the braggadocious businessman to craft his own legacy mythology: Success against all odds.
But now [New York] investigators are examining whether Trump improperly inflated assets, evaded taxes and paid off women alleging affairs in violation of campaign finance laws. Women have filed lawsuits accusing him of harassing and assaulting them. Lenders are looking for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to be repaid. [Forbes: Donald Trump Has At Least $1 Billion In Debt, More Than Twice The Amount He Suggested].
And he’s lost the legal immunity the presidency confers on him. He’s lost the White House’s bully pulpit. He may lose the GOP.
So Trump must plot how he can make the money he will need, keep the attention he craves and evade the authorities probing him. And according to Republicans familiar with the situation, he has already started doing that.
He could start his own conservative network or invest in an existing one, such as Newsmax, whose majority owner is a close friend, Chris Ruddy. Another option is One America News Network, a Trump-praising outlet he frequently praises. Then there’s Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns local TV stations across the country.
Or maybe Trump launches his own political party. People in his orbit were already teasing another run for president against Joe Biden in 2024 in the days before the race was called.
Sorry, Mike Pence. Your debasing yourself to be a loyal ass-kisser will never be rewarded. Loyalty is a one-way street in the Trump crime family — you should keep this in mind when Trump plots his presidential pardon scheme with you. Don’t play along, and be as ruthless and self-serving as Donald Trump, and you maybe get him out of the way in 2024.
The chatter alone is central to keeping the Trump brand alive as he faces down lawsuits, debt collectors and criminal investigators. He’s also stirring up chatter with lawsuits and recount demands contesting the election results.
“When have you had a president, with the exception of Nixon, who faced at the moment they leave office these gargantuan shadows?” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss, recalling the possible indictments that loomed over Richard Nixon when he resigned the presidency during the Watergate scandal.
But first, there are some business decisions Trump must confront now that Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival, has been declared the winner, securing the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Trump needs to decide whether to resume running his namesake company, which comprises more than 500 businesses, including hotels, resorts and golf clubs. The Trump Organization is presumed to have lost millions of dollars during the coronavirus outbreak, and Forbes estimates that Trump’s net worth dropped $1 billion during the global pandemic.
Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said Trump has been savvy about exploiting media opportunities throughout his life, whether it’s the New York tabloids or “The Apprentice.”
“I think it’s inevitable that he has a media platform,” he said. “Now the opportunity to broadcast is available to almost anyone at almost no cost. I think people would watch Trump bloviate spontaneously from any outlet. That’s going to appeal to him immensely.”
Talk radio bloviator Rush Limbaugh is dying from terminal lung cancer, so his time slot is opening up. Just sayin’.
In 2016, when Trump expected to lose to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, he had planned to start a media company, according to a Republican source.
But now that he’s served as president, some Republicans said he will be tempted to keep himself in politics, whether that’s through the GOP or his own party.
Not everyone in the Republican Party will welcome him. The GOP is torn between conservatives who passionately support Trump and moderates who are eager to distance themselves, but held back due to fears over backlash from Trump’s base. The direction the party shifts could be based on whether Trump fades from political relevance after leaving office, the way former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush did.
“He’s brought people out the party needs to capture certainly, but do they stay without him?” said a former Trump aide. “The party needs some of him, but not all of him.”
Even if the party doesn’t want all of Trump — or even some of him — that wouldn’t stop Trump from barreling ahead with another White House run. After all, the GOP didn’t really want him the first time around. Mick Mulvaney, who worked as acting White House chief of staff until this year and now serves as special envoy for Northern Ireland, even predicted Trump would do just that.
“I would absolutely expect the president to stay involved in politics and would absolutely put him on the shortlist of people who are likely to run in 2024,” he said in an event hosted by the Institute for International and European Affairs, an Irish think tank.
Trump, who spent decades teasing a White House bid before finally running in 2016, plowed through a first term marred by an impeachment trial, omnipresent investigations, back-biting leaks, tell-all memoirs from ex-staffers, prominent resignations and firings and crisis after crisis of his own making.
But his turbulent time as president is not necessarily a liability for future political ambitions. Instead, the bigger factor could be the litany of problems he will face after leaving office.
While in the White House, Trump has been largely protected from facing criminal charges, given a longstanding Justice Department precedent not to indict a sitting president. But once he leaves, he’ll have to grapple with a series of investigations that might directly implicate him.
The New York Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether Trump and his company misreported assets on financial statements used to seek loans, tax breaks and economic benefits.
And the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is still probing Trump’s payoffs to two women to keep them quiet during the 2016 campaign about extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump’s ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, already went to jail over the payments, which violated campaign finance law. Trump himself was implicated in the scheme, [i.e., “Individual 1”] with prosecutors saying he directed Cohen to make the hush money payments. There has long been speculation that Trump could face charges in the case after leaving office, although it’s far from certain he will.
Vance’s inquiry may also be broader than the hush money payments, possibly including a probe of tax crimes and bank and insurance fraud, according to court filings.
Since both probes are state — not federal — investigations, Trump can’t pardon himself on the way out the door.
Still, no president has been charged with a crime — aside from Ulysses S. Grant, who got arrested for speeding in his horse and buggy — and it’s possible Trump would be given special dispensation as a former president. [Or not: Biden says he would not pardon Trump or block investigations.] And notably, Nixon got a preemptive pardon after his resignation from Gerald Ford, saving the ex-president from any legal troubles.
Don’t do it, Mikey! Let Trump try to pardon himself — it will fail. The ancient legal maxim that “no man is to be a judge in his own case” will be held sacred.
Separately, Trump’s finances are about to become a focal point.
Trump has to pay back $421 million in loans that he has personally guaranteed, much of it to foreign creditors, most due in the next four years, according to an investigation in The New York Times detailing his personal and business tax returns. The investigation also found Trump attempted to secure a $72 million refund from the IRS in 2010 by claiming $1.4 billion in losses in 2008 and 2009, triggering a years-long audit that could cost him millions in back taxes.
Yet Trump has, again and again, evaded, side-stepped and shrugged off legal, financial and personal woes.
Trump has survived an impeachment trial, numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and thousands of lawsuits. While he has been through adversities of his own making — bankruptcies, settlements with authorities over alleged malfeasance at his charitable foundation and the now-shuttered Trump University — he has always remained unbowed.
Trump biographer Tim O’Brien said Trump has been isolated from the consequences of his actions his whole life because of his wealth, celebrity and presidency. That could extend to his post-presidency: “Will he yet again get another break because of these life preservers that have always been floating under his arms?”
Holding Trump accountable at law would restore faith in the rule of law and that justice still exists. Letting him off the hook because of his wealth and celebrity would only further erode faith in the legal system, and undermine the rule of law. And that would be his greatest crime.