I’ve heard from Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Lara Trump. I’ve heard from Rudy Giuliani, Ronna McDaniel, and Newt Gingrich. And I’ve heard from Donald Trump. Over and over again. The 2020 election was stolen from Trump. The left-wing mob, the Democrats, the fake news media—they successfully plotted together to pull off the greatest political heist of all time. Trump really won. But fake ballots were counted. Real ballots were trashed. American democracy was undone. The people have been robbed of their rightful president.
Yes, this is what I am told every day—multiple times—by Trump, his family, and his lieutenants. I am on several rightwing email lists, including various Trump campaign lists, and for the past three weeks, each day I have received a steady stream of emails signed by Trump or one of his minions. These missives all request money for Trump’s so-called “Election Defense Fund”—that is, his effort to overturn the election results and retain power—and they are obvious acts of grift. Though they generally ask for small amounts—from $5 to $45—the fine print on the donation page notes that unless you kick in about $8,000, the money goes to Trump’s political operation and the Republican National Committee, not the special fund that pays for the legal challenges Trump has been mounting (and losing) and the recounts he has been requesting. These emails are merely the latest iteration of Trump’s campaign money-grab, as he tries to financially exploit the clown-show coup Giuliani has been running for him.
But this barrage is doing more than squeezing cash out of Trump fanatics. For the recipients, it is solidifying a dangerous message: the election was illegitimate. Though campaigns typically do not disclose such information, it is a fair assumption that millions of people are receiving these solicitations on a daily basis. Your pro-Trump uncle or aunt—they are constantly being told that the evil Democrats have mounted a coup to topple Trump. Yes, Trump tweets this every day. But for those Trump-supporting Americans not on Twitter, these emails form a ceaseless reinforcement of Trump’s false counter-narrative: the 2020 election was rigged.
In one email with the sender identified as “Rudy Giuliani Alerts,” the Trump campaign calls Joe Biden’s victory the “biggest political scam of all time,” and it claims, “We have hundreds of affidavits from Americans all over the Country testifying under OATH to voting irregularities. It’s reported that vans, trash cans, and boxes full of ballots for Biden were brought in to be counted during the early morning hours without Republican poll watchers.” The Democrats, this mailing asserts, “are attempting to STEAL this Election.” Eric Trump tells me, “Make no mistake, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their allies in the Fake News media are trying to steal this Election… Biden couldn’t get 10 people to a rally and went days without leaving his house, while my father received 11 MILLION more votes THIS YEAR than he did in 2016.” His wife Lara emails, “The reports of voter fraud have been alarming. In addition to hundreds of sworn affidavits coming in from Americans across the Nation claiming they witnessed irregularities.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is also attempting to rile me up: “It’s time for us to get MAD. This Election is unlike any we have ever witnessed. The systemic corruption is breathtaking. The mainstream media, the Left-wing academics, and the entrenched Democrats will all ask us to roll over right now. There is voter fraud in this Election that MUST be reported and uncovered.” Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel reports that the “Radical Left” used “the coronavirus as an excuse to change Election laws” and that the Republicans have rounded up 1,200 “incidence reports” related to fraud and voting irregularities.
Of course, there have been no confirmed instances of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential contest. The Trump administration’s own election infrastructure experts concluded that: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history…There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The media—including Fox News!—called the race for Biden.
Yet Trump keeps insisting he is the victim of a diabolical plot. In one fundraising email that he signed, Trump insists, “the Left…RIGGED THE ELECTION!” He declares that the key swing states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia— “should immediately be put in the Trump WIN column. Biden did not win, he lost by a lot!” Another contains this plea: “I need you. The Left will try to STEAL this Election! I’m calling on YOU to step up & FIGHT BACK.” A third email from Trump states, “The Fake News media is trying to help Joe Biden UNDERMINE THIS ELECTION, and now I need you to stand with me and DEFEND America. This is your moment. If we don’t stand up and fight right now, we will lose our country to the Liberal Mob forever.”
This past Sunday my inbox was subsumed with Trump messages exclaiming the election was a hoax. Five were signed by Trump. (Under the subject line, “YOU are what keeps me motivated,” Trump wrote, “I can’t DEFEND the election from the Radical Left without you.”) Ten were signed by the Trump campaign. One was designed to make it seem that Giuliani was the originator. Another said, “We are going to prove that President Trump won by a landslide.” Two were from Eric Trump, one from McDaniel, and one from Vice President Mike Pence. Three additional emails from the Trump campaign offered me the opportunity to purchase a “Count All Legal Votes” shirt, with one of these informing me this was my “last chance” to procure this fashion statement. I received most of these emails twice. (So much for effective sorting software.)
It’s easy to dismiss all this as brazen and desperate Trumpian hucksterism. With millions of Trump voters disappointed in the election results, Trump has the chance to raise millions of dollars for his political operation—which can be used for a possible 2024 run or to keep his political operatives (including his kin) on the payroll. But these emails also reinforce Trump’s false tale that he and his voters have been cheated. Every day, his peeps are being told—again and again—by him and his disciples that the election was crooked. Trump is reaching people in their in-boxes to sow suspicion and disseminate distrust.
This is a powerful spray of disinformation. It’s a firehose of propaganda. Many of his folks will accept his word on this. They will see the election as bogus. And once Biden is inaugurated, they will refuse to view him as a duly-elected president. The whole world can watch Trump mislead his devotees with his tweets—many of which are marked as inaccurate by Twitter. But Trump is spreading his poison farther with this bombardment of emails, none of which comes with a disclaimer. He is exploiting paranoia and fueling division. As an aspiring autocrat who now casts himself as the victim of an evil cabal, he will profit greatly from this email blitz, no matter how many bucks he rakes in.