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Former President Donald Trump bombarded his supporters with more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off.
Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. Daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public information.
Donations remained unusually high for several more days and are still above average, these two people said, although they have leveled off in recent days. There are more contributors than usual, these people said, and the average donation has increased.
The influx comes at a crucial time for Trump, as he considers an early announcement for a 2024 presidential campaign and has seen returns on his online fundraising appeals decline earlier this year . The former president’s PAC brought in $36 million in the first half of the year, falling below $50 million in a six-month period for the first time since he left office, according to Federal Election Commission data .
The cash bonanza also provides a concrete signal that Trump is reaping some political benefits from the revelation that he is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible violations of laws, including the Espionage Act. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly boasted in emails, social media posts and right-wing media articles that the search warrant would backfire on President Biden and rally Republicans around Trump. The search prompted statements of solidarity from politicians such as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former Vice President Mike Pence, who are not reflexively defending Trump. And on Tuesday, Wyoming primary voters delivered a resounding defeat to Rep. Liz Cheney, whose leadership as a Republican on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol made her in a top priority for Trump to remove his post.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s fundraising efforts are led by Gary Coby, and former campaign manager Brad Parscale remains involved. The emails work best when they’re connected to high-profile news events, said one of the people familiar with the numbers, especially episodes that make Trump supporters feel under attack, such as impeachment proceedings.
“Trump as a candidate and fundraiser has always had an impressive set of voters who are especially mobilized by anger,” said Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, a Fordham University professor who researches how political campaigns use digital communications. . “A threat, a negative, a missed moment, can be really lucrative.”
A list of items seized in the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home was released on August 12. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)
The firehose of Trump fundraising emails referencing the Mar-a-Lago quest outpaced the PAC’s average pace by about nine days. The messages used alarming phrases in bold and all caps, such as “HE BREAKED INTO MY HOUSE”, “They’re coming after you” and “THIS IS CRAZY”. One message included a poll asking, “Do you agree that President Trump is being politically persecuted?” Another promised “an exclusive 1300% MATCH today only!”, a common tactic used to encourage people to respond immediately.
Such threatening rhetoric from Trump and other Republicans has drawn criticism and concern that it could lead to more violence against federal officials. An armed Trump supporter in Ohio was killed last week after trying to attack the FBI field office in Cincinnati. Cheney, in his concession speech Tuesday in Wyoming, said Trump is inciting violence now as he did before last year’s attack on the Capitol. “It is entirely foreseeable that the violence will increase further,” he said. Pence, in a speech in New Hampshire on Wednesday, urged his party to reject calls to “defund the FBI,” saying, “These attacks on the FBI must stop.”
The Jan. 6 House committee has been investigating fundraising emails from Trump and Republican groups that promoted false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. In a June hearing, a committee investigator said the Trump campaign sent up to 25 emails a day asking for donations to an “official election defense fund” that didn’t actually exist. But the requests raised hundreds of millions.
Since leaving office, Trump has raised more than $100 million for his PAC, often with misleading pitches, but has kept most of the money, spending heavily on only a handful of races and paying staff , legal fees and travel, according to a review of disclosure records. He has told advisers he wants to keep the money and that shows political strength.
The PAC disbursed less than $5 million in June to support Trump-backed candidates like David Perdue in Georgia, who lost the gubernatorial primary, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and Cheney’s primary opponent, Harriet Hageman. The PAC has spent millions more organizing Trump rallies, paying for his staff, travel and legal fees, according to FEC disclosures. The Republican National Committee has also continued to pay some of Trump’s legal bills in recent months.
Some GOP fundraising, including Trump’s, has slowed in recent months in what many see as a troubling sign, according to party operatives and officials in Trump’s orbit.
It’s unclear whether the anti-FBI fundraiser extends to other Republican groups, whose online fundraising had fallen worse than Trump’s in the first half of the year. The RNC sent out at least seven emails citing the Mar-a-Lago search, with more coming from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (“Stay with President Trump and get your NEW shirt!”) and the GOP House (“They broke into Trump’s staff.” sure… They ransacked Melania’s closet.”). Spokesmen for the RNC, NRSC and the Republican National Congressional Committee did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
“If you’re not talking about Mar-a-Lago in your fundraising, you’re swimming against the tide,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist. “For Trump, it’s been tough over the last few months because he hasn’t been in the spotlight as much. With Trump coming back into the spotlight, it’s obviously going to be good for them from a fundraising perspective.”
Trump’s name and likeness appear in fundraising emails from other candidates, a phenomenon he has occasionally attacked and would pose problems if he declares his candidacy. As the official nominee, Trump would face restrictions on how he could use his PAC war chest, campaign finance experts say, though the FEC often stops short of enforcement.