According to sources close to the matter, Special Counsel Jack Smith is reportedly investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his advisers deceived donors by making false claims about voter fraud in order to solicit donations. Smith's office has recently issued subpoenas to former campaign aides, Republican operatives, and other consultants involved in the 2020 presidential campaign.
The focus of the investigation is on the money raised by the campaign between November 3, 2020, and January 20, 2021, when it is believed that Trump generated over $200 million in donations from conservatives. The investigation is looking into whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws, which would make it illegal to make false representations over email to swindle people out of money.
The subpoenas issued appear to be focused on private conversations between campaign officials and Trump regarding the legitimacy of the election fraud claims they propagated. This is similar to the way Trump adviser Steve Bannon was investigated for his Build-the-wall scheme.
The January 6th committee in the House has already investigated claims that Trump defrauded his donors with election fraud lies. Trump campaign fundraising emails sent to donors claimed that the "left-wing mob was undermining the election" and encouraged donations to an ‘Official Election Defense Fund,’ that did not exist. Trump then allegedly created a separate entity called the "Save America" PAC on November 9, 2020, and most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election-related litigation. That PAC then gave millions in contributions to pro-Trump organizations.
Amanda Wick, who was the senior Investigative counsel for the Jan 6th Committee, stated that "the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false, yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails, encouraging them to donate to something called an Official Election Defense Fund. Claims that the election was stolen were so successful, President Trump and his allies raised $250 million, nearly $100 million in the first week after the election."
It remains unclear whether Smith's investigation will lead to charges against Trump or any of his associates. While political speech is typically more protected than commercial speech, evidence that Trump knowingly made false claims about voter fraud in order to solicit donations could potentially lead to charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
Ultimately, the investigation may hinge on whether there is evidence that Trump knew the election wasn't stolen. As the investigation continues, it will be up to the justice system to determine whether Trump's campaign tactics crossed the line from misleading to outright fraud.
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