It has been clear for more than a week that Donald J. Trump did not win re-election. It has also been clear for more than a week that his campaign intends to drag this out for as long as possible. A major part of that strategy appears to be a concerted effort to fleece his own supporters, with 150 emails (and counting) since Election Day about its “Official Election Defense Fund.” The suckers—excuse me, supporters—are told that their donations are necessary to fund recount efforts and lawsuits to protect the integrity of the election. The fine print says otherwise.
Over the last three years, I have seen a lot of Very Bad Emails. As the self-appointed online curator of the Trump campaign’s email library, I have logged and posted more than 3,000 of those messages to my Twitter feed, @TrumpEmail. These all have varying degrees of grift, as I explained in The Daily Beast back in August.
The one that popped up in my inbox Sunday morning — and again Sunday night and again Monday afternoon and again this morning — deserves special attention, though. From start to finish, this might be one of the most bizarre, pitiful, and unintentionally hilarious emails I have received—and that’s saying something. The best way to handle it is to start at the top and move our way down in bite-sized chunks.
The email starts off with some of the most overt fawning I can recall seeing as, according to FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s approval rating has never consistently ticked past the mid-40s, putting him well below most other presidents in the modern era. It reads like someone on the marketing team just found out that Trump had subscribed to his own emails, and they wanted to make him feel good—almost like the D.C.-area ad buys from over the summer.
Next up, we have our first major plot twist. The Dems say we rigged the election, but we didn’t. Actually, we prevented the rigging. But now that the Dems like the results, we think THEY rigged it! Got it? Anyway, you got five bucks we can use to make sure it wasn’t rigged?
Now we’re getting to the fun part. No credible news outlet has indicated that the election results are up for debate at this point, so the campaign scraped the bottom of the barrel. If you’re not familiar with The Epoch Times, their brand of news is suspect, to say the least. Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins first highlighted the organization and its tactics last year for NBC. Suffice to say, this outlet, which has ties to the Falun Gong new religious movement and heavily supported President Trump, is several rungs below Fox News on the credibility ladder. Citing their map in a fundraising email is a perfect example of the kind of Hail Mary strategy the campaign is attempting.
After the map, things might get a bit confusing. There is a series of descending contribution requests that tell you numbers don’t equal... themselves. $5 isn’t $5; $5 = $55!! If you have read these messages before, you probably understand what they were going for and you know the drill, but whoever wrote this email didn’t bother explaining. Allow me to do so in their absence.
Over the last few months, the campaign had teed up a steadily increasing percentage of “matching” donations (300%, 400%, 500%, etc.), which The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay wrote about in September. When they finally got to 1,000%, there was much rejoicing. It was a bait-and-switch, though. As Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post pointed out, the campaign quietly swapped out the “match” for a checkbox authorizing them to charge you 10 additional times. YOU are supplying your own match now.
And finally, we wrap up with the hard sell. With The Epoch Times providing cover, the campaign makes its big ask: they assert that all remaining toss-ups should automatically go to the Trump column. What’s more, the integrity of the election is at stake and the president is counting on YOUR $5 (sorry, I meant $55) to save the republic.
With its lawsuits getting slapped down and states inching toward the deadline to certify their results, the Trump campaign must know it is running out of time to squeeze any more cash out of supporters with this particular grift. SAD!