The farther behind Donald Trump has fallen in the competition for campaign dollars, the more he’s milked government resources to make up the difference.
Millions of boxes of food doled out to needy families — with letters signed by the president taking credit stuffed inside. An $8 billion program for drug-discount cards to seniors featuring Trump branding — intended to arrive before the Nov. 3 election. A $300 million advertising blitz to “defeat despair” over the coronavirus pandemic — the biggest threat to Trump’s reelection.
Each of those initiatives have two things in common: They’re paid for with taxpayer money, and they are plainly intended to help Trump’s flagging reelection campaign. The actions are just the latest examples of how the president has eviscerated the traditional boundaries separating politics from government.
His heavy reliance on federal resources and his own executive powers to win reelection come as Trump has fallen more than $100 million behind Joe Biden in TV ad spending, and slipped to a double-digit deficit in national polls.
As the election approaches, Trump has moved beyond using his control over federal resources to deploying government officials to carry out his political messaging. Last week, Trump suggested that his attorney general prosecute some of his political enemies. Days ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed he would release Hillary Clinton’s emails “before the election,” moving to resurrect a volatile issue from the 2016 race. And Attorney General William Barr has put the weight of the Justice Department behind Trump’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud.
“The president is increasingly using all the levers he’s got for political purposes,” says Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush who has endorsed Biden. “You can wonder whether he’s getting a bit desperate … It appears to me that the president is making increasingly outrageous demands and comments as time goes along.” [Continue reading…]