Remember that famous scene from All the President’s Men, with Deep Throat in the shadows of a parking garage, telling Robert Redford’s Bob Woodward to “follow the money” in order to unlock the conspiracy? Well, the Jan. 6 committee is most definitely following the money, and in doing so potentially building a wire fraud case against Donald Trump and members of his White House staff and campaign, who raised $250 million for a defense fund that did not exist to “fight election fraud”—which also did not exist.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) led this portion of the hearing testimony Monday, which included video of Amanda Wick, a senior investigative counsel. She outlined how, for weeks following the election and up to Jan. 6, Trump and his allies raised that $250 million with dozens of email solicitations a day. They raised $100 million in the first week after the election alone, Wick said.
“The emails claimed the, quote, left-wing mob was undermining the election, implored supporters to ‘step up to protect the integrity of the election’ and encouraged them to ‘fight back,’ ” Wick said. “But as the select committee has demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false. Yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense Fund.’”
The Jan. 6 committee, Wick said, “discovered no such fund existed.” The video the committee provided showed members of Trump’s team admitting that the fund did not exist. That money instead went to creating the Save America PAC, with $1 million going to the Conservative Partnership Institute; $1 million to the America First Policy Institute (AFPI); $204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection; and $5 million to Event Strategies, the Paul Manafort-owned company that produced the Jan. 6 rally before the riot. The Conservative Partnership Institute is a venture headed by Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff. The AFPI is chock-a-block full of Trump’s grittiest alumni. That leaves $244-ish million unaccounted for, by the way.
The committee also heard from Ben Ginsberg, a prominent Republican election lawyer who described Trump’s failed legal strategy, and the fact there there was no evidence of credible election fraud. Litigation in the election, Lofgren pointed out, was finished in December, but “President Trump continued to push the stolen election narrative even though he and his allies knew that their litigation efforts making the same claim had failed.”
“It is worth pointing out that litigation generally does not continue past the safe harbor date of December 14th,” she continued. “But the fact that this litigation went on, well that decision makes more sense when you consider the Trump campaign’s fundraising tactics. Because if the litigation had stopped on December 14th, there would have been no fight to defend the election, and no clear path to continue to raise millions of dollars,” Lofgren added. Which it did, all the way to and during the Jan. 6 rally.
The committee is systematically building the case that Trump knew that the Big Lie was a big lie, that his advisers in the White House and the campaign knew it and were telling him so, and that he was making fraudulent claims in order to raise money from his supporters. In other words, fleecing ordinary citizens—also known as wire fraud. Committee members are systematically connecting the dots between the fundraising and Jan. 6. They are following the money.
“Throughout the committee’s investigation,” Lofgren said, “we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. Not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Ripoff. Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going. They deserve better than what President Trump and his team did.”
The interviews after the hearing were just as interesting. Lofgren was asked if the committee had evidence that Trump and his family had personally benefited financially from the supposed legal defense donations. “YES,” Lofgren replied.
Asked if there is evidence of Trump’s financial crimes: “We’re a legislative committee,” she said. “And it’s clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist and used the money raised for something other than what is said.” Which is basically another way of saying “yes.”
“Now it’s for someone else to decide whether that’s illegal or not,” she added. “That’s not the purview of a legislative committee.” Again, over to you, Attorney General Merrick Garland.
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