The Grift Goes On

Trump has raised $250 million since election day, even as new reports emerge of shady dealings with campaign money.

Good evening. Voting ended in the 2020 Presidential election 45 days ago; the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris is in 33 days.

The Topline

“Donald J. Trump will exit the White House as a private citizen next month perched atop a pile of campaign cash unheard-of for an outgoing president, and with few legal limits on how he can spend it,” report Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman this afternoon in the New York Times. Indeed, the President has raised $250 million in the 45 days since polls closed, largely on the back of appeals related to his false claims that the election was stolen from him. What he will do with this slush fund is yet to be seen- but the Times imagines he “could use the money to quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.”

There is another possibility, of course. He may just loot the fund to pay himself and his family. Indeed, the Times report and a concurrent exclusive from Business Insider suggest the Trump family may have been up to some funny business with large amounts of campaign money through an LLC, American Made Media Consultants, allegedly set up by Jared Kushner in 2018. According to the report, Kushner installed Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump as president, and indeed Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew John Pence as its vice president. Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman doubled as the LLC’s treasurer and secretary, per paperwork, though the Times reports they served on the board. Someone is not sure how the nearly $700 million that apparently went through to the LLC got spent: Business Insider refers to comments from Trump advisers who did not know what American Made Media Consultants got up to, and were not aware of Lara Trump and John Pence’s involvement.

These details may be new, but no one can claim to be surprised. In the summer, the campaign was beset by allegations of self-dealing. CBS News reported that the Campaign Legal Center had produced an 81-page report alleging “the president's reelection campaign and campaign committee hid nearly $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump relations by funneling money through firms led by then-campaign manager Brad Parscale and senior campaign officials.” The complaint named American Made Media Consultants as well as Parscale Strategy as the two offending firms. In a special section just before the election entitled Ending Our National Crisis, New York Times editorial board member Michelle Cottle chronicled dozens of grifts and incidences of self-dealing across Trump’s four years in office. “Forget draining the swamp; the president slapped his name on it and began charging admission,” she wrote.

My American Interregnum colleague Greg Greene wrote convincingly on Wednesday about the necessity of holding the Trump administration accountable. Perhaps as journalists, watchdogs, and indeed the Federal Election Commission pay more mind to pre- and post-election spending by Trump’s campaign and PAC, another fruitful investigation will be born. Until then, the grift goes on.

Driving the Conversation

The Next Tea Party Is Lurking Inside Trump’s Election Results Denial. Rosie Gray, BuzzFeed News.

It’s difficult to tell how many people will remain in the hard core of the election-denying camp, though surveys have shown that large numbers of Republicans don’t believe the results — which can range from believing there were some irregularities to believing a coup is taking place. And it’s hard to know how much the most intense believers could influence the more ambivalent Republican, particularly as time goes on. But if this were not an important segment of the party, Republican leaders wouldn’t behave the way they have. Nor would a channel like Newsmax have been able to attract a significant audience. The incentives to keep this going are obvious; supply is meeting demand.

Pentagon halts Biden transition briefings. Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan, Axios.

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden, shocking officials across the Defense Department, senior administration officials tell Axios. Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham contradicted the Pentagon's official response to this story on Friday afternoon, telling reporters, "Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break."

Trump Failed to Protect America. David A. Graham, The Atlantic.

Regardless of the details, it’s hard not to see this hack as a fruit of Trump’s refusal to push back on Russian cyberaggression. The best defense against hacks is deterrence, but rather than deter the Kremlin, the president has repeatedly refused to even acknowledge previous Russian actions—basically giving Vladimir Putin an invitation to continue and amplify attacks, secure in the knowledge that whatever sanctions lower-level officials impose, Trump is uninterested in retaliating. The president has remained publicly silent about the new hack even now.

45,000 names, 130 packets of information, and gut instincts: How Biden is managing his transition. Matt Viser, The Washington Post.

Thick packets have been delivered regularly to President-elect Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Del., home, providing meticulous details on each potential Cabinet member’s strengths, weaknesses and possible areas of conflict. Biden has been conducting virtual interviews with final candidates, focusing on their values and life stories nearly as much as their approach to the departments they would lead. He has made Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris perhaps his closest partner in the Cabinet-selection effort; she has interviewed each candidate separately and traded notes with Biden afterward in what people close to the transition say has been an important step in deepening their working relationship. Biden’s transition — which began months before the election results were known — is providing the first portrait, if one largely conducted behind the scenes, of his style as a manager and decision-maker in chief.

John Kerry, Biden’s Climate Czar, Talks About Saving the Planet. Abram Lustgarten, ProPublica.

So the United States has to step up again. We have to do what President Obama licensed me to do, which was go to China, sit down with President Xi and talk about mutual interests. Now, China is about to bring 21 gigawatts of coal fired power online. India is poised to do slightly less, but similarly huge amounts. That’s going to kill us. That’s going to kill the efforts to deal with climate. If we don’t get China on board to help us lead all development efforts over the next years, and then India and Brazil and a group of other countries, we’re not going to get this done. I’m just telling it like it is.

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Appointments

Climate and Interior:

  • Congresswoman Deb Haaland is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Interior.

  • Governor Jennifer Granholm is nominated to serve as Secretary of Energy.

  • Michael Regan is nominated to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Brenda Mallory, an accomplished public servant and environmental lawyer, is nominated to serve as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.

  • Administrator Gina McCarthy will serve as the first-ever National Climate Advisor, heading up the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

  • Ali Zaidi, a leading climate expert and longtime advisor to the president-elect, will serve as Deputy National Climate Advisor.

Communications

  • Megan Apper, Director of Research. Apper leads the Research Team on the Biden-Harris Transition and served as Research Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Kate Berner, Deputy Communications Director. Berner was the Deputy Communications Director for Messaging for the Biden-Harris campaign.

  • Rosemary Boeglin, Assistant Press Secretary. Boeglin currently serves as a Spokesperson for the Biden-Harris Transition and served as a Rapid Response Spokesperson for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Amanda Finney, Chief of Staff for the Press Office and Special Assistant to the Press Secretary. Finney was the Associate Director of Policy and Communications for Sidewalk Labs.

  • Mike Gwin, Director of Rapid Response. Mike Gwin served as the Deputy Rapid Response Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign, and was a spokesperson for the campaign during the post-election period.

  • Meghan Hays, Director of Message Planning. Hays was Deputy Communications Director for Strategic Planning for President-elect Joe Biden on the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Paige Hill, Senior Regional Communications Director. Hill most recently served as Senior Advisor for Communications in Georgia for post-election litigation and recount for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Michael Kikukawa, Press Assistant. Kikukawa is the Rapid Response Coordinator for the War Room at the Democratic National Committee.

  • Jennifer Molina, Senior Director of Coalitions Media. Molina serves as Spokesperson for the Biden-Harris Transition and served as Latino Media Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Kevin Munoz, Assistant Press Secretary. Munoz currently serves on the Biden-Harris Transition working on the Agency Review Team for the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Vedant Patel, Assistant Press Secretary. Patel served as Regional Communications Director on the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Angela Dela Cruz Perez, Press Assistant. Cruz Perez serves as a Press Assistant on the Biden-Harris Transition, and served as National Communications Assistant and Communications Intern on the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Emma Riley, Chief of Staff for the Office of Communications. Riley served as Deputy Communications Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign in Pennsylvania.

  • Mariel Sáez, Director of Broadcast Media. Sáez is the Deputy Communications Director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and served as Women’s Media Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

  • Amijah Townsend-Holmes, Press Assistant. Townsend-Holmes served as a Personnel Assistant on the Biden-Harris Transition.

  • Remi Yamamoto, Senior Advisor for Communications to the Chief of Staff. Yamamoto served as the traveling national press secretary on the Biden-Harris Campaign, a position she held in the primary and continues to serve in for the transition.

The Eye of the Beholder


American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through — we’re all but sure now — Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin HendrixGreg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.