It didn’t take long for Donald Trump and his allies to pounce. Roughly 20 minutes after news broke that a Manhattan grand jury indicted the former President over charges related to hush money payments to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election, Trump fundraising pitches began flooding inboxes.
“The Left thought that they could break us with yet another witch hunt,” the first email from Trump says. “They thought that by threatening my possible arrest and arraignment, it would force us to end our 2024 campaign. They were sorely mistaken, Friend.”
More pleas soon followed, from the Trump-allied Super PAC Make America Great Again, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and other right-wing groups. Later in the evening, the Trump campaign blasted out another missive, this time promising to send donors a t-shirt that says “I Stand with Trump” in exchange for a contribution of $47 or more by midnight.
Solicitations from Trump and his allies are likely to increase exponentially next week. He is expected to surrender to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Tuesday and pose for a mug shot. That historic image is likely to galvanize the left, where many Trump critics have longed to see him behind bars. But Trump himself may also use it as grist for campaign attacks ads and employ it in donor appeals to gin up a collective sense of grievance among the MAGA faithful.
It’s a sign that Trump’s newfound place in history as the first former American president to be criminally indicted doesn’t only come with legal peril. It may be wildly lucrative.
Trump has already found success this month fundraising off the prospect of his indictment. He raised $1.5 million in just three days after announcing on March 18 that he was going to be arrested the following Tuesday. While the grand jury continued to meet for more than a week past that date, the timing of the actual indictment on Thursday was fortuitous: Friday night is the Federal Election Commission’s fundraising deadline for the year’s first quarterly reports.
Trump’s arrest may provide the next big boost to his campaign’s coffers, as Trump’s base views his legal woes as evidence of his political persecution. One of the former president’s ardent defenders in the press, emeritus Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, told Newsmax Thursday night that the mug shot might be used as a campaign poster for his presidential campaign. “He will be mug-shot and fingerprinted,” Dershowitz said. “There’s really no way around that.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment, which remains under seal, stems from allegations that Trump knowingly falsified financial records to cover up payouts to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from going public before the 2016 election with an alleged tryst between the two. Trump’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 in the weeks before the election, when she was on the cusp of sharing her story with the National Enquirer. Cohen alleges that Trump then reimbursed him for the same amount in a number of installments, but falsely recorded those payments as legal fees.
Read More: Live Updates on Trump’s Indictment
Falsification of financial records is a misdemeanor under New York State law, but is elevated to a felony if the falsification is in furtherance of another crime. It is not clear yet what charges are being brought against Trump. NBC News reported Friday that Bragg’s office is planning to bring roughly 30 counts against him.
Cohen himself served jail time over the matter and other offenses. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, lying to Congress, and other charges of fraud and tax evasion.
Yet with Trump now facing his own complicated and explosive battle, one that coincides with his bid to retake the White House, his fiercest allies are not only defending him in the public sphere but helping him leverage an indictment to raise money for his campaign.
“As soon as I saw the news that the Soros-DA indicted President Trump, I immediately made a donation to 45/47’s campaign,” the former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake tweeted Thursday night. “If you can, let’s send them a message. $5, $10, $500—it all helps. AND—you get a T-shirt. DONATE TO TRUMP!” Lake, media savvy MAGA sensation who narrowly lost her governor’s race but is challenging her defeat in court, is reportedly on Trump’s short-list for possible running mates.
She’s not alone in her zealous backing of the former president in the face of an intense legal battle. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had a pointed message for Fox News’s viewers when he appeared on Sean Hannity’s program hours after the indictment.
“DonaldJTrump.com. Go tonight. Give the president some money to fight this bullshit,” he said, appearing to be on the verge of tears. “This is going to destroy America. We’re going to fight back at the ballot box. We’re not going to give in. How does this end, Sean? Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That’s how this ends.”