The New York Times brings us the news that Donald Trump, a seditionist currently under indictment for violations of the Espionage Act, has "quietly" tweaked his online fundraising efforts to siphon more donor money away from his "presidential" campaign and into his Save America PAC. At the beginning of his campaign, 1% of his supporters' online donations went to his PAC. Now it's been kicked up to a healthier 10%, which the Times reports could mean an additional $1.5 million into the PAC.
The quasi-innocent reason for this is that it's Save America PAC, not Trump's actual campaign, that owns the email and phone lists that Trump's campaign is spamming for new donations, and that this is how Save America makes its own cut. But that is not how this is usually done, even now that America has largely given up on the pretense that it's illegal for political action committees to coordinate with candidate campaigns, and the Times correctly points out the real reason why this shift is so interesting.
It's because Trump's presidential campaign cannot, technically, pay Trump's ballooning legal expenses now that he's under indictment for All The Things. Trump's legal bills, and the legal bills of everyone around him, have been growing steadily with his new indictment for hiding classified national security secrets in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom, then lying to the government when the government tried to get them back.
Even then, those expenses will be a drop in the bucket compared to what it would take to defend Trump from a new possible indictment either for interfering with state elections or for outright seditious conspiracy. Trump's legal bills in the Espionage Act case may be constrained by the simplicity of the case against Trump. He's demonstrably guilty as sin and there's not a damn thing his legal team is going to be able to do about it, so the main task of the remaining scraps of that team is to say bellicose things on television while trying to delay Trump's trial for as long as possible.
Being put on trial for anything even tangentially related to attempted coup, however, will be very expensive because it will require a lot of actual lawyering, not just the television kind. And recent weeks have seen quite a few new indications that special counsel Jack Smith isn't done with Trump yet.
Trump's Save America PAC is one of the vehicles Trump has been using to pay his legal bills, and the legal bills for those around him. He’s been neatly pulling in MAGA donations so that it's his devoted army of rubes paying for his lawyers rather than himself. And that means we can expect the current 90-10 split between Trump's campaign and PAC to get kicked up to 80-20 or 75-25 if yet another Trump indictment is announced.
Trump doesn't "need" campaign money in the same way he needs Save My Ass money. Trump's campaign will likely again consist almost solely of Trump wandering around the country to attend various rallies, then coasting on the resulting publicity and on the publicity of his own always-reported new online pronouncements. There aren't going to be Trump television spots in the next six months.
There will be new influxes of lawyers, though, and the only thing Donald Trump may hate more than the idea of ending up in prison is personally paying people to keep him out of one. Trump's siphoned off donor money to pay his own lawyers, with or without the Republican National Committee's own lavish help, since the beginning.
With the notable absence of Melania and Ivanka on the campaign trail, there's reason to wonder if Donald would even have announced a new campaign if he weren't in such enormous legal peril. It's not likely that most of Trump's current MAGA crowd would be as quick to pull their wallets back out if they knew it would be going to Mall Lawyers Five through Seven. Trump's fans think their money is going to his campaign, or to "save America," or some other supposedly existential battle.
From the time Trump first descended his golden escalator to the cheers of a hired crowd, his political career has been a grift. Actually getting dumped into the Oval Office appears only to have made him even more grift-focused than before.
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