‘The Big Scam’: Jan. 6 committee zeros out Trump fundraising emails linked to fraud claims

The House Jan. 6 committee made its clearest attempt yet at Monday’s hearing to establish the potential criminal liability of people in former President Trump’s inner circle.

Driving the news: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Amanda Wick, the committee’s top research adviser, zeroed in on what Trump campaign fundraising emails described as his “official Election Defense Fund.”

  • Those emails were central to a Trump fundraising operation that generated about $250 million after the 2020 election, in part by promising the money would fund legal challenges and other efforts to nullify the election.
  • In reality, the committee alleged, millions of dollars were funneled into vehicles like Save America, a leadership PAC set up by Trump after the election, and other political and advocacy groups with ties to top Trump advisers.

What they are saying: “The select committee found that there was no such fund,” Wick revealed in a prerecorded video, citing recorded statements with two Trump campaign staffers.

  • “There wasn’t just the ‘Big Lie,’ there was the Big Scam,'” Lofgren said.
  • “It is clear that [Trump] intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist, and used the money raised for something other than what he said.” comments after the hearing.

Why it matters: Legal experts say this line of investigation is a clear effort to show that the Trump campaign and its allies may have used fraudulent tactics to raise money in the months after the 2020 election, when many top officials privately knew their claims of voter fraud were false.

  • “This is an allegation of electronic textbook fraud,” Randall Eliasonformer federal prosecutor and professor of white-collar crime at George Washington University, about Lofgren’s comments.

Between lines: Lofgren did not openly allege criminal activity at Monday’s hearing, saying “someone else has to decide if that’s criminal or not.”

  • But Attorney General Merrick Garland made it clear shortly afterward that the Justice Department is keeping a close eye on revelations from the hearings.
  • “I am watching and I will be watching all the audiences”, Garland told reporters“And I can assure you that there are prosecutors from January 6 observing all the hearings.”
  • The Department of Justice has had in recent years intensified criminal proceedings of political operatives who raise money with false promises knowing how that money will be spent.

Getting closer: On January 6, it has subpoenaed records from Salesforce, which owns an email marketing company used by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. The RNC has filed a lawsuit to block the release of those records in a case that is still ongoing.

  • The committee hopes the information sheds light on how much money such “election defense” appeals generated and the internal processes for crafting them.
  • In an emailed statement, an RNC spokesperson defended its post-election fundraising and spending, noting its involvement in court challenges to election results and the runoff election for the Senate in Georgia in early January. .
  • “In addition to the several million dollars spent on our legal efforts, the RNC spent tens of millions in the Georgia Senate races for more than 500 paid employees in the state along with thousands of volunteers, all of whom did more than 15 million voter contacts during the second round,” the spokesperson said.

Whether the committee’s findings are enough to pique the Justice Department’s interest is an open question.

  • “There may be enough here to launch a mail or wire fraud investigation, but there would still have to be a lot of accounting before you could charge, let alone convict, someone,” campaign finance attorney Brett Kappel told Axios.
  • Kappel pointed to the fine print on the fundraising applications in question, explaining that much of the money would go to Trump’s leadership PAC. Such language could help insulate the campaign from accusations that he misrepresented his applications, he said.

Be smart: Even if the committee clearly establishes that Trump campaign fundraising emails were knowingly false, and even if the Justice Department sees enough to warrant prosecution, it is highly unlikely that Trump himself is implicated. .

  • Trump likely had little or no input on the precise language of his campaign’s fundraising appeals.
  • But such an investigation could ensnare former campaign employees or vendors.


Leave a Comment