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Trump might have defrauded his own campaign donors

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. 

“Not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Rip-Off,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

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.

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.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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