Days after he sought to distance himself from some of President Donald Trump’s more outlandish statements, Michigan Republican Senate candidate John James is raising money with the help of the president’s eldest son.
Donald Trump Jr. will co-host a virtual fundraiser on Monday for James, a top Republican Senate recruit who hopes to flip a competitive seat in a state Trump narrowly carried in 2016. The fundraiser, which will take place over the teleconferencing platform Zoom, offers donors who give $1,000 the chance to pose questions to James and the younger Trump.
The event comes just days after James privately expressed disagreement with Trump on “plenty, plenty of issues,” according to a Politico report on his comments to a group of African American leaders.
“Everything from cutting Great Lakes funding to ‘shithole countries’ to speaking ill of the dead," James said. "I mean, where do you want to start?” James also pointed out that he hasn’t received any campaign contributions from the president.
Trump endorsed James during his unsuccessful 2018 Senate run, and his campaign has sent fundraising emails this year under the president’s name. But the fundraiser on Monday shows how committed Trump’s political inner circle is to electing James and how dependent James and other Republican candidates are on the political networks that have been built around the Trump brand and family. The younger Trump, after all, has the same proudly-vicious approach to politics that James found problematic in his dad. Just this past weekend, Donald Trump Jr. shared an Instagram post that insinuated Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was a pedophile.
The James campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the fundraising event. “I do recognize that it's human to disagree with people,” James said at the event earlier this month, according to Politico, “and like I've said millions of times, I can agree with the president without worshiping him. I can disagree without attacking him.”
In addition to Donald Trump Jr., the fundraiser on Monday will be co-hosted by Matt Schlapp, the lobbyist and informal Trump adviser who also runs the nonprofit American Conservative Union, which endorsed James last month. Schlapp’s wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is a former senior Trump White House official who now runs communications for the president’s reelection campaign.
Tickets to Monday fundraiser run $100 for standard attendees or $1,000 for “VIP roundtable” supporters. The latter will have an opportunity to ask questions of James and Trump Jr., and will get a souvenir John James for Senate mug.
Michigan Democrats dubbed the event a pay-to-play scheme, though fundraisers featuring VIPs from within the party of the candidate are commonplace. “John James has spent most of his campaign hiding from MI voters and press,” a spokesperson for the state party said about the event in a tweet on Monday. “Turns out all Michiganders have to do is donate $1,000 to ask him a question.”
James is hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Gary Peters after an unsuccessful 2018 run against Michigan’s other senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
“Our nation’s future is resting in the balance of what happens in Michigan this year,” declared a fundraising email sent by the James campaign under Trump’s name early this month. “If the Democrats can win this race and grab control of the Senate—it will fuel their efforts to undo all the progress that our conservative movement has made in the last three years.”