President Donald Trump is using government resources to make up for his flagging campaign funds.
The president ordered millions of food boxes set out to needy families, an $8 billion program for drug discount cards for seniors -- featuring Trump branding, and paid for by taxpayers -- and a $300 million advertising campaign in the final weeks before an election he seems likely to lose, reported Politico.
“The president is increasingly using all the levers he’s got for political purposes,” said Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush. “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.”
This last-minute push comes as Trump falls more than $100 million behind Democrat Joe Biden in television ad spending, and most public polls show him trailing by double digits, and veterans of previous administrations call the activity a "frontal assault" on government ethics.
“Trump is openly saying, ‘I get to use this office, the authority and resources that come with it, to just advance my political interests in the most raw terms,’" said Bob Bauer, the President Barack Obama's White House counsel who now helps lead Biden's voter protection efforts.
Previous presidents have used the trappings of the office to their advantage, but government watchdogs say Trump's bending of the government to serve his campaign is highly unusual.
“I do firmly believe that Trump has blended his personal business and the functioning of government in a way we’ve seen perhaps never in United States history,” said Nick Schwellenbach, a senior investigator with the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight.
The Department of Justice, under Attorney General William Barr, has intervened against the president's sex assault accusers and political enemies, and attorneys who've faced those efforts are clearly aimed at helping him win another term.
“Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent," said attorney Roberta Kaplan, who's representing author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused the president of raping her in the 1990s, "and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”