This is surely one of the most reprehensible scams that the former president has perpetrated. And so, if it produces new legal vulnerabilities for Trump and his allies, well, it couldn’t happen to a better group of crooks.
About 40 ago new subpoenas, according to the Times, and some are aimed at probing efforts to appoint bogus presidential voters to prosecute Trump’s plot to thwart President Biden’s certification of victory. This is getting a lot of attention, as the Justice Department’s investigation into this particular scheme appears to be progressing in earnest.
But the Times also reports this:
For months, associates of Mr. Trump have received subpoenas related to other aspects of investigations into his efforts to cling to power. But in a new line of investigation, some of the latest subpoenas focus on the activities of the Save America Political Action Committee, the main political fundraising channel for Mr Trump since leaving office.
The Associated Press adds more, reporting that subpoenas were issued seeking “information about the political action committee’s fundraising practices.”
This is interesting because Save America PAC’s “fundraising practices” seem to represent when the “big lie” turned into the “big scam” in spectacular fashion.
As documented by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, Trump and his allies raised as much as $250 million with countless text messages and emails filled with lies about the 2020 election. were sent in the run-up to January 6, 2021, appealing for donations to an “official election defense fund.”
But this fund did not exist, the committee demonstrated. Much of the money went to the newly created Save America PAC, not “election litigation.” This PAC has donated millions to groups linked to top Trump advisers, the committee claimed, such as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
In short, Trump’s lies in 2020 didn’t just incite the Jan. 6 attack. They also raised extraordinary sums from people who were probably desperate for Trump’s loss and believed his lie that the election was stolen. two.
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney, points out that a Justice Department investigation into the scheme would likely rely on what the Jan. 6 committee learned. Federal prosecutors likely collected much of the same documentation.
If so, McQuade says, it could involve something like wire fraud, which requires the use of electronic communications.
“Proving fraud can sometimes be a pretty easy task,” McQuade told me. “All you have to show is that people raised money by representing a set of facts, knowing that those facts were wrong.”
McQuade described what those accusations might look like: “They said the election was stolen because they wanted to piss people off and get money out of them.” An alternative lie, McQuade said, could be that the money was raised with the promise to fight the “stolen” election, but was channeled for other purposes.
We don’t know who, specifically, might be targeted in such an investigation or to whom it might lead. But the Times says the subpoenas were issued to “a wide variety” of people around Trump, “from low-level aides to his most senior advisers.”
There is a certain clarity to this particular scam that the January 6 saga sometimes lacks. when they defend efforts to overturn the election, Trump propagandists have muddyed the waters by suggesting that he was content to exercise legal options that he thought were rightfully open to him.
But in the case of this fundraiser, the story might turn out to be much clearer: Trump and his advisers knew the election hadn’t been stolen from him, but lied relentlessly to say otherwise, apparently for the express purpose of getting people to send money which was not even used to “stop the flight”.
It is unclear whether this investigation, like others underway, will ever lead to charges. But either way, the revelations are politically damaging, in part because this scam is so easy to grasp and the disregard for its marks is so blatant.
Moreover, such probes also fueled the investigation the interest of the media. It’s already happening: An Associated Press expose digs into Save America’s PAC and documents sordid details of what was actually done with the “Stop Theft” loot:
Trump put the money to other uses. He funded dozens of rallies, paid staff and used the money to travel as he teased a presidential election scheduled for 2024.
Unfortunately, Trump’s use of the money for rallies while feigning toward a 2024 race makes it less likely that victims of the scam will blame him. They likely see the rallies as a way for Trump to retaliate against the stolen election — on their behalf — and view the possibility of another race as an exciting prospect, as a way to get revenge for it.
So many of Trump’s victims may never be the wiser. But the rest of the country surely will.