"The grift continues": Trump tries to cash in on his indictment

Trump is selling $47 indictment t-shirts

Published March 31, 2023 1:30PM (EDT)

Donald Trump throws hats to supporters during a Make America Great Again rally on November 2, 2020, in Avoca, Pennsylvania. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump throws hats to supporters during a Make America Great Again rally on November 2, 2020, in Avoca, Pennsylvania. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Trump campaign and the former president's Republican allies wasted no time attempting to turn Thursday's indictment news into a lucrative fundraising opportunity, appealing to their right-wing supporters for cash on live television and in a flurry of late-night emails.

"We are living through the darkest chapter of American history," blared one email that the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee fired off after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the former president on criminal charges related to an alleged hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

"With your support, we will write the next great chapter of American history—and 2024 will forever go down as the year we saved our Republic," the email, which was attributed to Trump himself, continued. "Please make a contribution—of truly any amount—to defend our movement from the never-ending witch hunts and WIN the WHITE HOUSE in 2024."

A subsequent email with the subject line "Holding a shirt just for YOU" called Alvin Bragg "George Soros' bought-and-paid-for Manhattan D.A." and said Trump was indicted for "committing NO CRIME."

The email then transitioned to a sales pitch for Trump campaign shirts, which supporters were informed they could receive for "free"—in exchange for a $47 donation.

"What better way to show your support for President Trump and our incredible movement during this dark chapter in our nation's history than to proudly wear the brand-new 'I Stand with President Trump' T-shirt," the appeal declared.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., meanwhile, used his appearance on Sean Hannity's live-audienceFox News show Thursday night to plead with Trump supporters to "give the president some money to fight this bullshit."

"He's spent more money on lawyers than most people spent on campaigns. They're trying to bleed him dry," said Graham, one of many Republican lawmakers who rushed to Trump's defense following Thursday's news.

Republican members of Congress also sent out urgent fundraising emails Thursday night in an attempt to capitalize on news of Trump's indictment.

"Contribute to our OFFICIAL TRUMP DEFENSE FUND to STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP against this SCAM INDICTMENT," read an email sent by the campaign of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the chair of the House Republican Conference.

The Trump campaign said it raked in at least $2 million in donations in the week after the former president predicted on his social media platform earlier this month that his arrest was imminent.

Trump is expected to turn himself in to New York authorities early next week. The former president is reportedly facing more than 30 criminal counts of document fraud, though the indictment and exact charges remain under seal.

MSNBC's Steve Benen wrote Friday that "in theory, it might seem impossible for a scandal-plagued politician to turn a criminal indictment into a grift."

"In practice, the relationship between Donald Trump and his followers is not normal," Benen added, noting that the Trump campaign has successfully raised money off impeachment proceedings, efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, and supposed post-election campaigns to "secure" future contests.

The latter fundraising ploy yielded millions of dollars for Trump's PAC—but that money was reportedly funneled toward the former president's travel costs and other expenses, not the election battles donors were promised.

"Common sense might suggest that the public would see these developments, learn about the former president's underhanded tactics, and his fundraising would dry up—especially in the wake of a criminal indictment," Benen wrote Friday. "His schemes have been exposed. His willingness to exploit his supporters has been well documented. All of this should start closing wallets. But Trump's hold on his followers is strong—so the grift continues."

By Jake Johnson

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