Be a patriot, donate! How Trump uses indictments to fund campaign

"The Biden Department of Justice is trying to JAIL ME FOR LIFE," Trump said, before asking his fellow "patriots" to give from $24 to $1,000 to his bid to be the Republican Party's candidate in 2024.
Former US President Donald Trump (AP)
Former US President Donald Trump (AP)

WASHINGTON: Each time Donald Trump is indicted -- and that has now happened four times since March, with the latest election interference charges in Georgia -- he raises serious campaign cash and gets a bump in opinion polls.

Instead of damaging the former president's image, his legal troubles, for now, offer him valuable political capital in a country where winning the White House costs billions of dollars.

On Sunday, even before charges were formalized in Georgia against the 77-year-old Republican, he fired out an email to his supporters, inviting them to fight back... by reaching for their wallets.

"The Biden Department of Justice is trying to JAIL ME FOR LIFE," he said, before asking his fellow "patriots" to give from $24 to $1,000 to his bid to be the Republican Party's candidate in 2024.

"Our Republic is hanging by a thread, and America needs you right now."

$4 million in 24 hours

Since he was first charged with criminal wrongdoing in New York, the feisty onetime reality television star has inundated his backers with text messages and emails of a similar ilk, always peppered with inflammatory language.

Criminal charges against him? All "witch hunts." Democratic President Joe Biden? A "crooked" leader of a "tin-pot dictatorship" whose government is conspiring to "eliminate their leading opponent."

So far, the strategy is working: the Republican's campaign team announced they had raised more than $4 million in 24 hours after his first indictment in March in New  York, over hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Team Trump also boasted about raising nearly $7 million after he was charged in federal court in Florida in June over his handling of top secret classified documents -- the first time a sitting or former commander-in-chief has ever faced federal charges.

In a sign of the influence that the real estate tycoon still wields over his conservative base, thousands of Americans heeded the call to donate.

One of them is Jim Wood, a retiree first encountered by AFP in Washington on January 6, 2021, the day of the deadly assault on the US Capitol by Trump's supporters.

Since the Republican billionaire's first indictment, Wood has donated nearly $400 dollars to his campaign, according to publicly available campaign finance data.

The 60-something from New Hampshire says he is convinced that Trump is the victim of political persecution.

"Even if he's in jail, I'll still send him money," he told AFP.

- Double-edged sword -
Trump's campaign war chest and the engagement of his supporters are even more spectacular given that his fundraising efforts before his legal woes intensified were not as successful.

With each new investigation, the Republican has benefitted from what analysts have called an "indictment bump."

A similar boost has been seen in the polls -- since the New York charges were laid, the former president has gained nine percentage points in the race for the Republican nomination, according to polling data aggregator RealClearPolitics.

"Any time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls," Trump said earlier this month.

"We need one more indictment to close out this election."

Even if Trump and his entourage are happy to brag about their fundraising successes on the back of his mounting legal problems, these cases are a double-edged sword.

The candidate has had no choice but to dip into the campaign coffers to pay millions of dollars in legal fees linked to the indictments -- money that could have otherwise been used for television ads, rallies or campaign swings nationwide.

"His legal expenses are through the roof. Trump has already spent a large percentage of his contributions on legal expenses," Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, told AFP.

"And those expenses will only go up for months and months, maybe years, to come."

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