On Monday morning, Donald Trump was incensed over a report that one of his highest-profile supporters, David Bossie, had been engaged in apparent financial self-dealing under the guise of re-electing the president. And as he stewed, Trump began telling those close to him that Bossie’s alleged scheme was brazen and egregious enough to warrant a swift, public response.
By Monday night, the president’s reelection campaign had gone through multiple drafts of what several sources described as a harsh statement condemning Bossie’s conduct and the group he led. That evening, there was a widespread belief throughout the upper echelons of Trumpworld that the release of such a rebuke was imminent. Shortly after this story posted, the campaign finally released a statement that didn’t mention Bossie by name but clearly was directed at him and his group.
“President Trump’s campaign condemns any organization that deceptively uses the President’s name, likeness, trademarks, or branding and confuses voters,” it read. “There is no excuse for any group, including ones run by people who claim to be part of our ‘coalition,’ to suggest they directly support President Trump’s re-election or any other candidates, when in fact their actions show they are interested in filling their own pockets with money from innocent Americans’ paychecks, and sadly, retirements. We encourage the appropriate authorities to investigate all alleged scam groups for potential illegal activities.”
Why it took nearly two days to release the statement is not entirely clear. But it reflects how often the political whims can and will shift within the president’s orbit as his advisers try to accommodate his moods without creating too much unnecessary, unforced drama.
The drafting of the statement began only after extended internal griping by the president, according to four people with knowledge of his complaints. Trump was angry at a report from Axios that revealed how Bossie’s political group, the Presidential Coalition, had raised about $18.5 million since 2017, but had spent just $425,000 on actual political activity, a miniscule percentage for such a large outfit. The group spent even more than that buying books, including pro-Trump tracts authored by Bossie himself.
The organization raised much of its money through appeals that directly invoked Bossie’s close relationship with the president. And some of the group’s donors told Axios that they thought their money would be going directly towards efforts to reelect the president, not into the pockets of Bossie and an array of nonprofits and consulting firms with which he’s affiliated.
The Axios story was based on a detailed study on the Presidential Coalition’s finances conducted by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
In a lengthy statement of his own, Bossie called the story “fake news brought to you by a collaboration of the biased liberal media and unabashed left-wing activists.” He did not respond to follow-up questions from The Daily Beast on Monday. The White House and the Trump campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment either.
There are scores of political committees on the scene that raise huge sums by invoking the names of prominent politicians, but spend little of it on actual politicking. But Bossie isn’t any old political grifter; he’s a prominent member of the president’s inner circle of advisers, supporters, and confidants.
During the final stretch of the 2016 presidential election, Bossie, who serves as the president of Citizens United, played a pivotal role in Trump’s shock victory as the deputy campaign manager. After Trump tapped Bossie for his campaign, then-candidate Trump called him “a friend of mine for many years.” Though Bossie went on to play a role on the presidential transition, he had ruffled too many feathers in Trumpworld to gain a meaningful gig in the administration or at the Republican National Committee. Still, he remained in Trump’s good graces, writing complimentary books about the president and giving the president private counsel.
But few slights bother Trump more than the perception of someone profiting off his name, especially if those funds could have otherwise benefited the 2020 campaign. And within hours of the report surfacing, the president had instructed aides to deal with it.
Two sources said that top brass on Trump’s 2020 team were similarly appalled by the Bossie story. Three people with direct knowledge said that as of Monday evening, senior campaign staff had been working for hours going through multiple drafts of an official statements calling out what Bossie and his group did. Some versions of the statement, portions of which were read to The Daily Beast, specifically named and shamed Bossie, others conspicuously left his name out.
But not everyone was on board. From the onset, there was internal debate over whether or not Trump 2020 should even release a statement, with several officials concerned that doing so would merely draw attention to a story that deserved to simply die. Some thought, or hoped, the president would just forget about it the next day.
Sure enough, as Monday came to a close, the brakes had been tapped.