Remember when Donald Trump said he was self-funding his presidential campaign despite the two big ‘Donate’ buttons on his website’s homepage? Now it’s emerged the Trump campaign sent letters to foreign politicians asking for donations. Not only is this very likely illegal under federal election law but the sheer weirdness of the begging letters is yet more evidence that the billionaire’s campaign is becoming a joke.
Trump’s requests for cash went to dozens of politicians in the UK, Australia and Iceland, including all 55 members of parliament from the Scottish Nationalist Party (a left-leaning, pro-EU group) and, most bizarrely of all, the leader of Iceland’s Left Green party. A quick Google search could have told Trump staffers that their targets would never support Trump and some had publicly criticized him.
In the wake of the British vote to leave the European Union, Trump’s begging letters have given Britain’s tabloids something to laugh about with one Scottish politician publicly shaming Trump and his son, Eric, who signed off some of the letters. After Trump’s ill-informed pro-Brexit comments in Scotland, it should be no surprise his campaign asked for money from people at the opposite end of the political spectrum.
This begging letters farce shows the rot eating away at the Trump campaign. With reports that his campaign is basically non-existent in several states, and his fundraising totals are nowhere near where they need to be, it’s starting to look like the Trump Train is going off the rails. First, he fired a campaign manager whose career survived an assault charge, then hired a media strategist who had to delete some vicious anti-Trump tweets and then lost his new media guru two weeks later. The Trump campaign is starting to look like an episode of Veep, with one unlikely disaster following another.
The Donald’s central claim has always been that he’s ‘independent’. He can’t be bought because he’s so rich. He buys influence, he doesn’t ‘belong’ to anyone. His desperate and idiotic appeal to foreign politicians for donations proves once and for all that Trump’s independence is a lie. It’s also clear that Trump either can’t afford to self-fund or he doesn’t want to. Considering how much campaign money has gone to his own businesses, it’s looking like Trump wants to make money more than he wants to be president.
Is this actually a serious political campaign? Despite the millions of votes Trump’s won over the last year, he’s doing none of the things a candidate needs to do. Even considering his high unfavorable rating, the Trump camp can’t just abandon traditional campaigning. Listening to Trump’s blustering self-regard, you might think he’s about to romp home to the White House. In reality, Trump’s campaign is a mixture of media appearances and an incompetent fundraising effort, peppered with u-turns on his major policy promises.
Senior Republicans refuse to endorse him, some openly attack him, potential VP picks have ruled themselves out and a cash-strapped campaign send potentially illegal begging letters to European politicians who think Trump is a moral monster. We’ve known Trump was a liar from day one, now we know he might be a practical joker, too. If his campaign really is the huge joke it looks like, Republican voters won’t like the punchline.