Former President Donald Trump, one of the most prolific liars, self-promoters, and exaggerators in American history, recently claimed that a song featuring his voice just hit No. 1 on Billboard. Miraculously, that’s true. But what may not be true is that anyone is actually listening.
The song, as Trump claimed, topped the charts earlier this month, including on iTunes and Billboard. But those were very specific charts: Digital sales—not popularity, where the track has been getting absolutely crushed. In fact, even though the song is the most purchased, the recording has never cracked Billboard’s coveted Hot 100.
That hasn’t stopped Trump from repeatedly bragging about the success of the song—a propagandistic recording called “Justice for All,” which mixes the “J6 Choir” of imprisoned insurrectionists singing the national anthem with Trump reciting the pledge of allegiance. Trump played it to open his rally in Waco, Texas, last weekend.
“The J6 [Choir] is beating Taylor Swift,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday, two days after the rally. “It’s Donald Trump and the J6 prisoners, and on iTunes, and on Amazon, and on Billboard, which is the big deal,” he said, adding, “now I feel like Elvis.”
Not everyone is so thrilled. The official music video includes violent scenes from the Jan. 6 attack—shown over “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”—including the fatal shooting of Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt as she tried to breach the House.
The critics bridge the partisan divide. Former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Barb McQuade called the song “a disinformation tactic right out of the authoritarian playbook,” The Guardian reported. And Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said on Monday that it was “insane” for Trump to play the video at the rally.
Kilmeade may have made two points there—not only does the song warp and celebrate one of the darkest days in the history of American democracy, it’s also not popular.
Earlier this month, Billboard—“which is the big deal,” per Trump himself—provided some critical context in the second paragraph of a report about the song. The recording, which premiered at No. 1 for iTunes on March 11, racked up 33,000 purchased downloads from March 10-16, the article said. Meanwhile that week, it only clocked “442,000 official U.S. streams and 25,000 in U.S. radio audience.”
By comparison, according to the same Billboard article, the top streaming song that week—Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night”—got 38.9 million streams. And the No. 1 radio hit—“Flowers,” by Miley Cyrus—reached an audience of 106.7 million people.
That means Trump got about 1 percent of the online listens and less than half of 1 percent of the radio play for the most popular songs that same week.
So while more people bought the Trump recording, it wasn’t a hit. In fact, the track appears to have peaked at 105 on Billboard. (The Hill additionally reported that “Justice for All” didn’t chart on Spotify’s top 50 most streamed songs the day it hit No. 1 in sales.)
Curiously, the track plummeted on the iTunes sales chart before Trump’s March 25 rally. On March 23, it was ranked fourth, but the next day it fell to 26, then dropped again to 33 the day of the rally. The event was apparently a shot in the arm, however, punting the song back up to No. 8.
So who is responsible for this project, and where is the money headed?
The day before the song’s March 3 soft release, Forbes reported that in addition to Trump—who recorded the pledge at his Mar-a-Lago resort compound—the effort was led by Trump administration appointee and post-presidential lackey Kash Patel, along with former Fox News commentator Ed Henry.
Coincidentally, Patel and Henry are both facing the prospect of mounting legal fees. Patel has found himself in the sights of the Justice Department, most specifically for his involvement in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents investigation. Henry has been fighting a rape lawsuit in New York for more than two years. An amended version of the original complaint was just filed against him at the end of December, under the state’s new “survivor’s law.”
The sales proceeds, Forbes reported, would first go to an LLC helmed by Henry, who will then distribute the money. The profits will allegedly wind up with the families of some of the people imprisoned for their role in the Jan. 6 violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to Forbes. (The group said it would make sure none of the recipients attacked police, though the official video—which Henry posted to Rumble—glorifies insurrectionists clashing with law enforcement.)
But this setup doesn’t seem quite so clean on paper.
Henry does seem to have an LLC—an entity called “EH42 Productions,” which he incorporated for “journalism” in Maryland eight years ago, according to state records. However, Henry also appears on a new nonprofit with a conspicuous name: “The Justice For All Project,” which attempted to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) in Florida on March 14—a dozen days after the Forbes report and three days after the recording began racking up big sales numbers.
But if the nonprofit is handling the proceeds, it may be under questionable legal conditions. The state of Florida rejected the organization’s initial application, citing improper signatures, and as of Wednesday the group hasn’t filed a corrected version, according to state records.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates charity activity in the state, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that The Justice For All Project “is not registered with the department to solicit contributions.”
In addition to Henry, the nonprofit’s lineup features a former Trump administration official, Tom Homan. Homan served Trump as acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and he was a focus of a blistering congressional 2019 hearing regarding his role in shaping the White House’s child separation policy. (Homan also served in Barack Obama’s administration, and received a “Presidential Rank” award, after which he appears to have begun his MAGAward lurch.)
Homan was slated to speak at white supremacist Nick Fuentes’ far-right political conference this February. He showed up, but backed out under confusing circumstances. This month, Homan was named CEO of another Florida nonprofit—“The America Project”—whose leadership features pro-Trump election conspiracy theorists Joe Flynn (brother to Trump’s disgraced National Security Adviser Mike Flynn) and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne.
Another person listed on the Justice For All Project’s paperwork, Amanda Freytes, is also part of the America Project, where she is a communications official.
Patel has also hucked the song. A promotional pop-up clouds the home screen for the website of his own murky nonprofit, which also sells song-related T-shirts with “all net proceeds” going toward “select cases” of Jan. 6 prisoners, calling them “victims.”
It’s unclear whether a T-shirt sale counts as a (tax-deductible) contribution to the nonprofit or as a private transaction. The checkout page doesn’t clarify, and it also solicits a donation on top of the purchase.
Patel—who played a central role in Trump’s attempts to overturn his election defeat, as well as in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents scandal—established the nonprofit last year. The entity has drawn questions from legal experts in addition to criticism for paying thousands of dollars to so-called “FBI whistleblowers,” ABC News reported this month.
But the song wasn’t apparently a surefire hit. According to a source who spoke with Billboard, the production group behind the recording—Mailman Media—wasn’t initially confident in its success. The recording was first released on March 3 with “a soft marketing rollout” to test the public’s response “before ramping up promotion.”
Those promos kicked in about a week later. Right-wing streaming channel Real America’s Voice got the first crack on March 9, after which the official video debuted on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast. The video was then featured exclusively on right-leaning platform Rumble on March 9 and 10. Of the 33,000 sales that week, about 39 percent came the next day, the outlet reported.
That day, March 11, Trump pumped the song on his Truth Social social media account. Patel also gave a fulsome interview to right-wing website Breitbart.
“We basically broke the music industry is what we did here,” Patel said in the interview, adding, “We’re going to debut a song that speaks to what’s on so many Americans’ minds.”
That’s not that many. As Variety reported earlier this month, online sales represent “a minuscule fraction” of the music industry.
“Politically based songs often register high No. 1 on iTunes, where it usually takes only a few thousand sales a day to command the chart,” Variety reported.
The article also pointed out that Kid Rock’s 2022 anti-Biden track “We the People” hit No. 1 for iTunes sales, as did rapper YG’s 2020 song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).”