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Other View: On top of everything, Trump might have defrauded his own campaign donors

Instead of using the donations for the solicited purpose, he collected more than $250 million worth and diverted them for wildly different activities.

OPED-TRUMP-DONORS-EDITORIAL-ABA
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on the Ellipse on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, near the White House in Washington, D.C., shortly before his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS
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Evidence is mounting that Donald Trump may have defrauded donors when he solicited funds to challenge the 2020 election result but then diverted donations elsewhere. If confirmed, it would hardly be the first time he has used bait-and-switch tactics to swindle and deceive those naive enough to have trusted him.

As someone in the P.T. Barnum era famously said, there’s a sucker born every minute. As another said, a fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place. Trump appears to have built his financial empire off a firm belief in these adages. He is under court order to testify in New York for having falsely inflated his net worth to banks to obtain loans and then falsely understated his properties’ values to get a lower tax rate. He has bilked construction contractors and others to whom he owed money. So why not his own supporters?

“Not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Rip-Off,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., referring to Trump’s solicitation of donations to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

Instead of using the donations for the solicited purpose, he collected more than $250 million worth and diverted them for wildly different activities. One example was a $60,000 payment to Kimberly Guilfoyle for less than three minutes of work: She introduced her fiance, Donald Trump Jr., at the president’s pre-insurrection rally on Jan. 6, 2021.

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor of election law at Stetson University, told National Public Radio that because Trump said he was using money from donors for his legal defense fund, he couldn’t later claim the expenditures as campaign finance. The election was over and there was no more campaign.

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But was it a criminal act? Possibly. If Trump knew that there was no valid legal challenge left to fight the election result, that could signify intent to defraud. Numerous witnesses have testified in the hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection that Trump had been told repeatedly by his lawyers, family members and close advisers that he had lost and the result could not be challenged. Courts in more than 60 cases had ruled against his election fraud claims. Yet Trump continued to collect money to advance the big lie.

A similar case is pending against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for raising $25 million to finish building the southern border wall. Bannon is accused of pocketing some of the money for personal use. Two co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Trump, however, is an entirely different category from Bannon. Prosecution seems unlikely, but the bigger question is, given this flim-flam man’s track record, why Trump supporters still back him — and keep giving him money they were lucky enough to have in the first place.

©2022 STLtoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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