Defeat does not threaten to make an honest or humble man of Donald Trump. In his final weeks as president, Trump's inner circle has been using his hollow assertions of voter fraud to raise piles of money. One of his post-loss emails appealed for donations to "Stop the Left from trying to steal the Election." Another, signed by the president's son Eric Trump, asks for $5 "IMMEDIATELY to support the official Election Defense Fund."
The Trump political operation has raised about $170 million since Election Day. Much of the money could end up in an account for his post-White House political activities. Some also could go to defray the costs of his failed legal challenges.
Sample the numbers. The Trump Make America Great Again Committee raised $125 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to federal records quoted by The Washington Post. This is some fast and furious fundraising, particularly for a president who once sold his political audience on the idea that he's so rich he didn't need contributors and thus could not be corrupted.
That's just one project that keeps the president's men busy before Trump departs. Another is pardons and commutations. Rudy Giuliani, the Trump personal attorney who usurped foreign policy in a bid to obtain dirt on President-elect Joe Biden, reportedly has discussed with Trump the prospect of a pardon.
Giuliani, who has been front and center in pushing far-fetched voter-fraud allegations, tweeted: "Never had the [pardon] discussion." The ex-mayor reportedly has been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan on matters related to activities involving Eastern European oligarchs.
But Lev Parnas, a former Giuliani business associate now charged with financial corruption, promptly tweeted on Tuesday: "Pardons were always discussed in the #TrumpCult. The question is will you accept one? Innocent people don’t need a pardon."
Pardoning Giuliani, even though he hasn't been charged with anything, could be a logical power move for Trump. Everyone knows the president is not big on paying bills or fees or picking up others' expenses. But he is allowed to issue pardons and commutations as casually as a municipal official might give a parking placard to a campaign contributor.
Law is one thing, conduct another. How is it not corrupt for an elected executive to get members of his political crew off the hook for their crimes? Whether the heat is on Giuliani or ex-advisers Steve Bannon, Roger Stone or Michael Flynn, Trump retains for a little while more the power to put in the fix. That's one perk of the job Trump might come to miss even more than the Thanksgiving turkey pardon.