The Donald Trump presidency has been in significant part about grift and graft right from the beginning, as the president made clear that in his Washington, everyone should grab whatever they can (as long as they kick up to the boss, that is). But it’s fascinating that even as Trump faces a mortal threat from impeachment, the grasping has not ceased.

If anything, it may be accelerating.

One almost gets the sense that President Trump and those around him know that the clock is ticking on this crazy ride, so they’d better get what they can while they still have the chance.

Here’s a taste of what’s going on:

  • As of the end of the third quarter, Trump’s reelection campaign and its affiliated PACs had already spent more than $171 million; $100 million of that was by the campaign itself. Compare that to the $40 million Bernie Sanders had spent, the $34 million Elizabeth Warren had spent or the $27 million Joe Biden had spent — and those people are actually running in a hotly contested primary. What has the Trump campaign gotten for it? It’s a little hard to tell, given that his approval ratings are still weak and he trails the Democratic contenders in just about every poll.
  • If you contribute $50 to the Republican National Committee, you can get a signed copy of Donald Trump Jr.’s new book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” That means that the RNC probably bought thousands of copies of Jr.’s book, every one of which earns him a royalty, not to mention boosts sales figures to make the book look more successful.
  • According to an investigation by Judd Legum, the Trump campaign runs frequent “contests” as fundraising tools, in which people are told they can win things like a meal with the president. Yet no one ever seems to win. After Legum published his report, the campaign produced two contest “winners,” neither of whom actually got the meal with Trump they had been promised.
  • This week Senate Republicans are holding a “Save the Senate” retreat at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Win or lose, at least they’ll put some more money in the president’s pocket.
  • Trump has reportedly been speaking with Mark Burnett, the producer of “The Apprentice,” about doing a Trump-branded version after he leaves office. As the Daily Beast reports: “The TV program would be explicitly politics-themed and take full advantage of Trump’s status as a former president of the United States and a newfound Republican kingmaker.”
  • The White House has hired former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi to help with “impeachment messaging.” In 2013, Trump’s “foundation” gave an illegal $25,000 contribution to Bondi’s PAC (foundations can’t donate to political groups), while her office considered whether to investigate his Trump University scam. Bondi decided not to, then Trump filed a false tax return, claiming that the $25,000 had been donated to a nonprofit group in Kansas with a name similar to Bondi’s PAC.
  • Another White House hire is Florida televangelist Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual adviser.” A practitioner of “prosperity gospel,” which says God wants you to be rich and that it will happen if you make a hefty donation of whatever you do have, White once told her flock that they should donate up to a month’s pay to her church, and that if they didn’t, God’s wrath would fall upon them.

Grifters all the way down.

I’m willing to predict that Trump’s reelection campaign is going to be a particularly fruitful source of graft and self-dealing. It seems as though it will have an almost unlimited supply of cash, as both Trump superfans and wealthy Republicans line up to give their money to the president. So far it has raised $165 million, with an additional $80 million to outside groups supporting his reelection. You could imagine it bringing in 10 times that by next November. Where is all that money going to go?


The biggest portion of the campaign’s spending so far ($18 million) has been to a company called American Made Media Consultants, which was set up to handle media buying for the campaign (in other words, it’s probably going mostly to Facebook ads). But two of campaign manager Brad Parscale’s companies, Parscale Strategy and Parscale Digital, have together taken in more than $10 million.

I’m sure Trump is worth every penny, or at least he’d tell you he is. But while the campaign is honoring the Trump family tradition of stiffing people on money it owes, there’s going to be so much money sloshing in and out of the campaign that they’ll have trouble keeping track of it all, which will open up opportunities for the unscrupulous to pad their bills so they can get some of those donors’ cash for themselves. That includes, of course, Trump himself, who, among other things, is renting space to the campaign for an office it doesn’t really need.

The president and those around him certainly want very much to win and to keep this party going for another four years. But if that doesn’t happen, they’re going to make the most of the time they have.