One thing that really struck me when I read the Forward to Michael Cohen’s book Disloyal, was how he emphasized the fact that Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing. I had settled into a thought process over the past 4 years, and most particularly ever since the election, as I witnessed a seemingly unhinged Trump keep repeating that he won the election and it was stolen from him, that this man simply is, to put it most kindly, a bit mentally unbalanced. In its own perverse sort of way, this had actually been comforting to me to think that of him, to think that what we have witnessed is a bumbling, stumbling man, now on his bumbling, stumbling way out the door. After all, what real harm could a bumbling, stumbling man do? I, and many liberals, have looked at what he has done in office, and what he might yet do in the days remaining, with some real alarm, that is true, but also with a touch of snickering and eye rolling. We were right to feel alarm, but we were wrong to snicker.
Trump knows exactly what he is doing.
Trump is the loser of the election, but he is the winner of a big bag of cash he is walking out the door with, perfectly legally. And I am angry. I am angry that he can legally do this. I am angry on behalf of his supporters, who are the victims of Trump the Grifter, even if his supporters themselves aren’t mad about it and don’t mind. And I am angry this is not getting much more play in the media. Yes, it has been covered, but I think it deserves a blaring headline every day, what this soon to be officially ex-President is doing and about to do with money he is sucking out of the people who adore him. We have had in the history of this country several Presidents with issues regarding their moral character, but this will be the President who is going to go down in history as a Grifter.
The dictionary definition of grifter is
“A person who operates a side show at a circus, fair, etc. A swindler.”
Here is the grift: A Leadership PAC called Save America. Lovely name, that one. Here is how the grift works. Ever since the election, the Trump Campaign website has a had plea for donations (and it is still there as of this writing) that says “click here to donate to the Election Defense Fund.” You might then reasonably presume the money you are giving is to fight this supposedly fraudulent election that Trump supposedly won, right? Wrong. There is no such account called “The Election Defense Fund.” The money donated goes to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, and this money is shared between the RNC, who gets 25%, and the Leadership PAC created by Trump called “Save America,” which gets 75% of the money donated.
And what is a Leadership PAC? It is a political action committee that can “fund expenses that are ineligible to be paid by campaign committees….” What does that mean? Put simply, while the law forbids money in a presidential campaign account to be used for personal expenses, there are no such restrictions on money in a Leadership PAC. Trump can therefore use money from Save America to pay personal expenses. He can use it to pay for travel. He could use it for events held at Trump properties. He could use it for all sorts of things. This, I contend, should be called a grift, and in this particular case is known as the old “bait and switch.” Trump supporters have been giving donations, and lots of them, over 200 million dollars since the election, to an Election Defense Fund, that is in effect lining Trump’s own pocket. And we are not talking big money donors, we are not talking business executives or Wall Street types. As Brian Schwartz noted in an article for CNBC, the big money people started jumping ship well before the election. They are quite happy, and comfortable, to proceed to work with Biden. Corporate executives are practical people, who spend their money where they feel they will get the most return on investment. They are not handing money to the carnival barker running a game where you lay down a dollar to try and win that prize stuffed animal hanging jauntily from the tent ….. oh, but you never quite win it, do you? A grift. The grifter gets your money and you get nothing other than a chance to play a game you are not going to win. Only the grifter wins.
Trump is winning a very sizeable bag of money out of his grift. This is 200 million dollars and counting, most of it flowing into Trump’s Save America, and most of it is from small donors, that farmer in Iowa, that unemployed factory worker in Michigan, that Mom and Pop store owner, whose business has been sunk by the pandemic, in Wisconsin. People who really can’t afford it are the people who are giving the money, multiple small donations, to the man they love and admire and adore. Grifters count on their charm. That is all part of the grift. Charm them into giving you their money.
This is utterly contemptible and completely legal under our campaign finance laws.
Many of these donors when told this money is not going to fight this supposed election fraud, but to Trump’s PAC, seem to be fine with that, apparently. Perhaps they think the money will be used by Trump for his 2024 run (actually it cannot, that is one restriction on a Leadership PAC, you can’t use it to fund your own campaign) or they figure it will be used by Trump to fund a candidate he will endorse. Maybe it will. If Trump can make money off doing that, it will, certainly. Perhaps he will throw a big party, paid for by his PAC, at some Trump Property, on behalf of some candidate, and merrily count the profits that will stream into his business by doing so.
Once he is officially out the White House door, what will be his next big grift? Well, obviously, the best play is to continue milking his followers for whatever money he can continue to get from them. Donny Deutsch, a branding and marketing expert and commentator on MSNBC, who long ago was a Trump friend but is no longer, feels that what we have been witnessing in the run-up to the election and in the post election bizarre Trump Show, is Trump engaging in pre-production for his next money making venture. Perhaps it will be some sort of subscription media gig, where his followers can pay to continue to hear his rants.
Yes, indeed, Trump knows exactly what he is doing. We liberals were wrong every step of the way to snicker at him and simply assume he was deranged. He is not deranged. He is a grifter. A smart grifter.