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Trump bets, again, on legal troubles yielding big donations

<i>Win McNamee/Getty Images</i><br/>Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after delivering remarks June 10 in Greensboro
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after delivering remarks June 10 in Greensboro

By Fredreka Schouten and Alex Leeds Matthews, CNN

(CNN) — Each time Donald Trump gets charged with a crime, the contributions pour in, a CNN analysis of newly released campaign reports shows – underscoring how much the criminal cases confronting the former president have benefited the Republican’s campaign bottom line.

The analysis of itemized donations – those larger than $200 – to Trump’s campaign shows his day-by-day contributions over the first six months of this year spiked following the news of his indictments.

In the first half of March, for instance, Trump’s principal campaign committee reported taking in an average of less than $80,000 a day in itemized contributions, according to the analysis.

But roughly $4 million landed in his campaign coffers into the days surrounding his indictment in late March by a Manhattan grand jury in collection with an alleged hush-money scheme and his April 4 arraignment in the case. He pleaded not guilty.

(The CNN analysis looked at contributions larger than $200 because that’s a threshold for candidates to disclose details about contributions, including the date they were received.)

Political donations soared again in June when the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Trump, alleging he mishandled classified documents he retained after leaving the White House and obstructed the government’s efforts to get them back. He, again, pleaded not guilty.

The analysis comes as Trump announced Tuesday a new set of legal troubles, this time a letter from special counsel Jack Smith that said he is the target of a criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. By day’s end, he was repeating what has become a pattern: asking his supporters for campaign donations to help him fend off what he called “another vicious act of Election Interference on behalf of the Deep State.”

Each time trouble looms, Trump’s campaign has bombarded his supporters with appeals for cash. Hours after pleading not guilty in a Miami courtroom in June in the classified documents case, for instance, Trump sent an email to his supporters, calling the Biden administration “corrupt” and claiming that the charges amounted to interference with his campaign.

In another fundraising pitch that day, Trump sought to cast the charges against him as an attack on his supporters, writing, “They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after YOU – I’m just standing in their way.”

The indictments “match perfectly with that his messaging is: ‘The system is rigged against me and it’s rigged against you,’ ” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee communications director. “These are flashpoints that speak to that.”

And the flood of financial support around his legal woes, Heye added, underscores that “the base has never left Trump.”

“It’s one of the reasons that so many Republicans have been so hesitant to go after Trump, especially those running against him,” he said.

Asked about the most recent fundraising solicitation, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in an email: “Americans are sick and tired of a weaponized Justice department, under the direction of Crooked Joe Biden, using these witch-hunts to go after his main political opponent, President Trump.”

The donations also stand to help Trump directly as his legal troubles mount. Currently, 10% of the money Trump raises through his main political funding vehicle – the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee – goes to a leadership PAC, Save America, that has paid his legal expenses in the past.

Details on Save America’s spending in the first half of this year will be disclosed to election regulators and the public later this month.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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