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A Trump raising money off election lies? Now we’ve seen everything.

Donald Trump managed to vacuum up hundreds of millions of dollars of donations as a lame-duck president. This was not money offered by supporters to advance his final policy wishes or in service to some future political bid. It was, instead, mostly money thrown at Trump in response to his incessant and dishonest claims that he’d been the victim of nefarious behavior in the 2020 presidential election. For a time, it appeared that special counsel Jack Smith was investigating whether that exchange of lies for contributions violated federal law. No charges were filed.

While the acute prompt for those contributions, a mostly theoretical legal effort to retain power, evaporated Jan. 20, 2021 (or really, two weeks before), Trump continues to generate enthusiasm for his political future in part by making false claims about his 2020 loss. That enthusiasm, as ever, is measured in contributions.

But as was the case in late 2020, he is not alone. Then, it was outside groups such as “Stop the Steal” that were raising gobs of money by falsely claiming that the election results were suspect. Now, as CNN reported Wednesday, it’s the Republican Party itself.

This year, Ronna McDaniel stepped down as chair of the party, a position she’d held since just before Trump took office. She was replaced by two people, including Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump. The change was reported to have centered on Trump’s ongoing insistence that Republicans agree with his assertions about the election. In short order, Chairman Michael Whatley and co-chair Lara Trump made clear that they would.

So does the fundraising call obtained by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck. In it, a woman calling herself “Stephanie” says she is calling on Lara Trump’s behalf. She then points to 2020 as a reason for the recipient of the call to give money to the party once again.

“We all know the problems” that occurred that year, she says. “No photo IDs, unsecured ballot drop boxes, mass mailing of ballots, and voter rolls chock full of deceased people and noncitizens are just a few examples of the massive fraud that took place.”

None of these were “problems” in any sense except that they, in some instances, made it easier for people to vote.

In some states, you don’t need to present ID to vote — but in no state was there any demonstrated fraud of any significance that was dependent on a lack of ID.

There were “unsecured ballot boxes” in several states, but again no significant fraud resulted. There was a high-profile allegation of fraud using ballot drop boxes; that has since been robustly refuted.

There was a mass mailing of ballots in some states as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. It did not result in any significant demonstrated fraud.

There were a lot of dead people registered to vote, since many people who die are rude enough not to subsequently update the state with their new status. There is no indication that any significant number of ballots was cast using the identities of those dead people.

All of these were things that Trump highlighted after and before the 2020 election as he sought to amplify the idea that his loss, should it occur, was necessarily a function of some nebulous illegality.

One thing he didn’t talk about much, though, was this claim that there were a lot of noncitizens on the voter rolls. It’s mentioned here not because there’s a lot of evidence that noncitizens are registered — there isn’t — but because this idea of noncitizens voting is a current obsession on the right. The (non) issue of noncitizens voting, for example, is reported to be the focus of an event Friday featuring Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). This “great replacement theory” idea that Democrats are bringing in immigrants intentionally so that they might vote has gone from the fringe to the mainstream to fundraising pitches.

“If Democrats have their way, your vote could be canceled out by someone who isn’t even an American citizen,” “Stephanie” says at another point in the call in CNN’s report. “Patriots like you, the people who actually pull the wagon in this country, deserve nothing less than free and fair elections.”

(The “pull the wagon” reference is to an allegory commonly used to suggest that certain groups — immigrants, people on public assistance — are freeloaders taking advantage of others.)

With all of that said, it’s the “a few examples of the massive fraud that took place” that is the most significant piece. Vague, unfounded hand-waving about improprieties is the bread-and-butter of the effort to parlay skepticism about 2020 into something more lucrative. But this goes further, stating flatly that “massive fraud” occurred, which it didn’t.

A Washington Post-Schor School poll released this week found that more than a third of Republicans think that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2020, which is not true. Other polls have found that a large majority of Republicans think the election that year wasn’t legitimate, even if they don’t have concrete evidence to reinforce it.

The new, Lara Trump-led GOP is leaning into this false idea that 2020 was tainted by fraud. Prospective employees are being screened to determine their fealty to the claim. A division with the Orwellian name of “election integrity” has been created, with a prominent promoter of false claims about the election tapped to lead it. Now the message goes out to donors: give us money to stop all the fraud that occurs.

Hey, it worked for a Trump four years ago.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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