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Call off the legal dogs.' Some GOP donors aren't keen to help Trump with election lawsuits

by USA Today on November 10, 2020

 

Call off the legal dogs.' Some GOP donors aren't keen to help Trump with election lawsuits

 

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s campaign is aggressively seeking donations to pay for lawsuits and recounts in a handful of states where Democrat Joe Biden won, but some GOP donors are already moving on to other fights, such as a pair of runoff elections in Georgia that may decide control of the U.S. Senate.

An abandonment of institutional Republican donors for Trump’s legal cause would leave the campaign in a tough spot as it vows to launch a series of legal battles in PennsylvaniaNevada, Georgia and elsewhere – a multifront effort that would almost certainly require the party to shell out tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. 

Three GOP donors speaking to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations echoed an argument that has been raised by legal experts in recent days: Trump's effort to retain power through the courts may result in a few battles won but it won't win the war for his reelection absent some bombshell revelation.

Rather than invest money in the president's legal crusade, several donors said they were instead shifting focus to Georgia, where Republicans Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue will both face runoff elections Jan. 5, contests that will likely decide whether Republicans retain the Senate and can serve as a check on the Biden administration. 

"Republican donors are about to seek extreme social distance from Donald J. Trump,” one donor told USA TODAY. "President Trump should...call off the legal dogs.”

So far, there is little indication that he will. The campaign has solicited legal donations from mega donors and also blasted out fundraising solicitations for small-dollar contributions for days, using baseless claims of "fraud," "corruption" and "illegal votes" that have echoed the president's own language from the White House. 

'FRAUD' FACT CHECKS:

Neither Trump nor his aides have presented evidence of any election fraud. Instead, their lawsuits have focused on the fact that Republican election observers were required to keep a distance of 6 feet from the vote counting and a non-decisive number of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania that arrived within three days after the Nov. 3 election. 

Though the results of last week's election are not yet certified, Biden has substantial leads in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. He has narrower leads in Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia – though his margins there are far larger than the unofficial 1,784 lead President George W. Bush had in Florida on the morning after the 2000 election.

Several Trump aides did not respond to a request for comment. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told reporters in Washington on Monday that the party and the campaign had no intention of giving up the fight. 

"Is it gonna be enough? We don't know. Is it going to take time? Yes, it's going to take time," McDaniel said. "But what we are seeing is deeply alarming."

One Republican donor speaking to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity said there has been no clear evidence of fraud in any of the states in question in a way that could significantly change the results. The donor was therefore opposed to going on a “blind date” by contributing additional money to the Trump campaign's legal efforts.  

Over the past several days, the Trump campaign as well as the RNC have sent a flurry of text messages and emails urging supporters to contribute to the court challenges.

"President Trump is FIGHTING BACK to defend the integrity of this Election, but he can't do it alone," one such email read.

But when would-be donors click through that solicitation, they are greeted by a website with a small-print disclaimer that says 50% of any donation will go toward the campaign's general election "debt retirement" effort, and the other half toward the campaign's recount account. A separate fundraising effort by the "Trump Make America Great Again Committee" says that 60% of contributions will go toward campaign debt.

The extent of the Trump campaign debt, if any, will not be clear until the next round of reporting to the Federal Election Commission later this month. Those reports showed the Trump campaign had about $63 million in the bank heading into the November election, far less than the Biden campaign had available in its final weeks. 

Several donors expressed frustration that the Trump campaign was raising cash – potentially to retire that debt – when control of the Senate may be at stake in Georgia. Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock will face each other in one of two runoffs. Perdue will run against Democrat Jon Ossoff in the other. The candidates must take part in the runoffs because none received at least 50% of the vote. 

Normally, Georgia would be a lock for the Republicans, but the 2020 election has made that less of a sure bet. Unofficial results showed Biden with a lead of 11,595 in the state in the presidential race. 

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