Donations remained unusually high for several days and are still above average, both people said, although they have leveled off in recent days. There are more donors than usual, these people said, and the average donation has risen.
The influx comes at a pivotal time for Trump as he contemplates an early announcement for a 2024 presidential campaign and has seen declining returns on his online fundraisers earlier this year. The former president’s PAC brought in $36 million in the first half of the year, falling below $50 million in a six-month period for the first time since his departure, according to Federal Election Commission data.
The money bonanza also provides a concrete sign that Trump is reaping some political benefits from the revelation that he is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible violations of laws, including the Espionage Act. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly bragged in emails, social media posts and right-wing media articles that the search warrant would backfire on President Biden and rally Republicans around Trump. The search led to sympathetic statements from politicians such as Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former Vice President Mike Pence, who are not reflexively wholehearted in defending Trump. And on Tuesday, Wyoming’s primary voters delivered a resounding defeat to Rep. Liz Cheney, whose leadership as a Republican on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack, made her a top priority for Trump to unseat.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s fundraising pitches are led by Gary Coby, and former campaign manager Brad Parscale remains involved. The emails perform better when related to high-profile news events, said one of the people familiar with the numbers, especially episodes that make Trump supporters feel attacked, such as impeachment proceedings.
“As a candidate and fundraiser, Trump has always had an impressively committed group of voters who are primarily mobilized by anger,” said Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, a professor at Fordham University who studies how political campaigns use digital communications. “A threat, a negative, a time where you lose can even be lucrative.”
Trump’s fire-hose fundraising emails referencing the Mar-a-Lago search exceeded the PAC’s average pace of about nine a day. The messages used alarming phrases in bold and capital letters, such as “THE BROKE IN MY HOUSE,” “They are coming after YOU,” and “THIS IS INSANE.” One post contained a poll asking, “Do you agree that President Trump is being politically persecuted?” Another promised “Today only an exclusive 1300% MATCH!”, a common tactic to encourage people to respond immediately.
Such threatening rhetoric from Trump and other Republicans has sparked criticism and concerns that they could lead to further violence against federal officials. An armed Trump supporter in Ohio was killed last week after attempting to attack the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati. Cheney said in her concession speech in Wyoming on Tuesday that Trump is now inciting violence as he did in the run-up to last year’s attack on the Capitol. “It is fully foreseeable that the violence will escalate further,” she said. During a speech in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Pence urged his party to reject calls to “downgrade the FBI,” saying, “These attacks on the FBI must stop.”
The Jan. 6 House Committee investigated fundraising emails from Trump and Republican groups promoting false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen. At a hearing in June, a commission investigator said the Trump campaign sent as many as 25 emails a day requesting donations to an “official election defense fund” that didn’t actually exist. But the requests brought in hundreds of millions.
Since he left office, Trump has raised more than $100 million for his PAC — often with misleading pitches — but he’s kept most of the money, only spending a lot on a handful of races and paying for some personnel, legal fees, and travel, according to a review of disclosure records. He has told advisers that he wants to keep the money and that it shows political strength.
The PAC paid out less than $5 million in June to support Trump-approved candidates such as Georgia’s David Perdue — who lost the gubernatorial primary — Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and Cheney’s main opponent Harriet Hageman. The PAC has spent millions more organizing Trump’s rallies, paying its staff, travel and legal expenses, according to FEC disclosures. The Republican National Committee has also continued to pay some of Trump’s legal bills in recent months.
Some of the GOP’s fundraising, including Trump’s, has slowed in recent months in what many consider a troubling sign, according to party associates and officials in Trump’s orbit.
It’s not clear whether the windfall from anti-FBI fundraising extends to other Republican groups, whose online fundraising fell worse than Trump’s in the first half of the year. The RNC sent at least seven emails citing the search for Mar-a-Lago, with more coming from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (“Stand with President Trump and get your NEW shirt!”) and the House GOP (“They broke into Trump’s personal safe… They looted Melania’s wardrobe.”). Spokespersons for the RNC, NRSC and the National Republican Congressional Committee did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
“If you’re not talking about Mar-a-Lago in your fundraising, you’re swimming against the tide,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist. “It has been difficult for Trump in recent months because he hasn’t been in the spotlight as much. Now that Trump is back in the spotlight, it will obviously be good for them from a fundraising perspective.”
Trump’s name and likeness are mentioned in fundraising emails from other candidates, a phenomenon he occasionally lashes out at that would cause problems if he announces his candidacy. As an official candidate, Trump would face restrictions on the use of his PAC war chest, according to campaign finance experts, although the FEC often gets bogged down along party lines on enforcement issues.