In a deep dive into Donald Trump's business endeavors that began when he was first elected president in 2016 -- and what has ensued since he lost re-election in 2020 -- the New Republic's Alex Shepard writes it all could come back to haunt him in unforeseen ways should he run again in 2024.
As Shepard points out, Trump has long had varied success slapping his name on everything from steaks to wine using his own money and bank loans, but since running for office has accumulated even more cash from fans who support his political aspirations.
"Trump is back to doing what he does best: cooking up hastily conceived schemes aimed at making a quick buck with minimal effort," writes Shepard. "But in Trump’s efforts to enrich himself post-presidency, you also see familiar imperatives: He’s still lazy and unscrupulous, though now he has a far larger pool of potential marks. Now, Trump is hastily combining all his schemes into one effort to get rich and augment his power and influence in the GOP, in anticipation of running for president again. It is, predictably, a disaster."
Touching on Trump's central social media empire accomplishment, Truth Social, the journalist suggested the financial machinations that surround it could cause problems for him down the line -- in particular, the Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) linked to its development.
To make his case, he quoted noted financial journalist David Cay Johnston who claimed, "By moving into this area with social media combined with SPAC, it’s largely outside the realm of regulated business. Trump has an opportunity to make some money with very little work, and he just has to keep it going long enough to avoid fraud charges. This all goes to a fundamental truth: America and the rest of the developed world have very weak white collar crime laws. They’re full of exceptions and excuses: It’s an open opportunity for criminals to steal with an ink pen and a promise rather than a gun.”
According to the New Republic journalist, "All that Trump has to do to get away with it is to keep the scam going long enough. That may prove a challenge."
Claiming that no one in Trump's orbit has done much in the way of making Trump Media and Technology Group seem like a legit endeavor, Shepard suggested that its struggles have borne out expectations that it could go the way of Trump Steaks or Trump University, which ended in lawsuits.
Taken together with Trump hawking of books about his presidency and scooping up donations for a hinted-at second run for president, Shepard wrote, "The result is a nebulous, shadowy financial empire in which Trump is generating perhaps millions of dollars in revenue from his supporters directly for himself, while also providing products that require almost no effort or personal capital: picture books, hats, NFTs—even a social network."
"These financial activities will create unprecedented political problems and new ethical issues should Trump seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination—and especially if he wins the presidency," he wrote before adding, "These businesses also require capital, something Trump has been wary of putting up himself in the past."
"There has never been an ex-presidency quite like this, in which a former president simultaneously lays the groundwork for another campaign while also attempting to make as much money as possible. The result is an ethical minefield, in which the identities of the people paying Trump substantial amounts of money may never be revealed" he continued. "On another level, they also resemble the Trump campaign’s own predatory fundraising efforts, in which many supporters unknowingly signed on for monthly donations that caused them serious financial hardship."
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