Donald Trump’s presidential campaign raised $250 million from supporters by telling them the money would be used to fight vote fraud, but the campaign knew those claims of fraud were bogus and instead diverted the money to his own political organisation, the House committee investigating the January 6 attacked claimed on Monday.
Mr Trump’s campaign sent millions of fundraising emails to supporters encouraging them to donate to help fight vote fraud between election day and January 6, the committee said. Many of those emails asked supporters to donate to an “election defense fund” for legal cases related to the election.
However, an investigator for the committee said that fund did not exist, and most of that money went Mr Trump’s ‘Save America’ political action committee, not to election-related litigation.
“The evidence highlights how the Trump campaign pushed false election claims to fundraise, telling supporters it would be used to fight vote fraud that did not exist,” said Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the House committee.
“The Trump campaign knew these claims of vote fraud were false yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense fund.’ The select committee discovered no such fund existed,” she added.
House committee member Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic congresswoman from California, said President Trump “used the lies he told to raise millions of dollars from the American people.”
Congresswoman Lofgren added that the committee’s investigation found evidence that “the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. So not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Rip Off.”
The committee played video testimony from a former Trump campaign digital director, Gary Coby, who agreed that the use of the phrase “election defense fund” was a “marketing tactic.”
Ms Vick, the committee investigator, said that the claims that the election was stolen were so successful that president Trump and his allies raised $250m, nearly $100m of which came in the first week after the election.
Most of that money went to Mr Trump; Save America PAC, which was founded on November 9, and not to election-related litigation, Ms Vick said.
She added that Mr Trump’s PAC then made millions of dollars in donations to political allies, including $1m to a charitable foundation founded by his chief of staff Mark Meadows and $5m to the company that ran President Trump’s January 6 rally in front of the White House.
“The fundraising emails continued through January 6, even as president Trump spoke on the Ellipse,” she said.
“Thirty minutes after the last email was fundraising sent, the Capitol was breached.”