What we now know about this Official Election Defense Fund: It officially didn’t exist. “I don’t believe there is actually a fund called the Election Defense Fund,” a Trump campaign staffer admitted to the House’s Jan. 6 committee, in testimony played on Monday.
According to the committee, millions of supposed election defense dollars were instead spent on Trump-affiliated companies, events and stays at his own hotels and the foundations of his aides and friends. “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 he said,” noted Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who is on the committee.
I spoke to one of these donors last year, a 76-year-old retiree in Southwest Washington. She gave Trump more than $1,000 in increments starting right after the 2020 election, according to FEC records. She said she was upset about the election, but had only intended to give $50. (She apparently didn’t notice some checked boxes that doubled the contribution and made it recurring.)
When she saw her bank account being depleted, she felt mortified that she had been “had.” She didn’t want me to print her name — too embarrassing, she said.
“I don’t blame Trump,” she said. His team or some vendor was “probably disloyal to him. Everybody is disloyal to him. He’s doing the best he can, with everybody fighting against him. I’d vote for him again, you bet.”
I now think this whole episode may be so far beyond politics that it’s out of my skill set to analyze. Maybe it’s a criminal or civil issue, best left to the courts. Or maybe it requires some sort of social psychology analysis. Is there a co-dependency dynamic at work? The madness of crowds? I don’t know. As I admitted in the first sentence of this column: I don’t get it. Why do people keep giving him money?
Nobody knows how or when the Trump story will end. With a presidential comeback possible, his place in political history remains a question mark. But damned if he isn’t among the best con men who ever lived.