The White House / Flickr trump with PM Abe at Mar a Lago...
The White House / Flickr

It’s been five months or so and Team Trump hasn’t gotten around to staffing most of their own administration, but Donald Trump is already holding his first re-election fundraiser. It’s tonight. The lowest-tier tickets will set you back $35,000 per person. And of course, he’s holding it at the Washington D.C. hotel he, personally, owns—thus pocketing a tidy sum for having the event in the first place. None of this is business as usual.

The historically early campaigning comes with clear fundraising benefits, but it has raised red flags. Among them: Government employees have inappropriately crossed over into campaign activities, tax dollars may be subsidizing some aspects of campaign events, and as a constant candidate, the president risks alienating Americans who did not vote for him.

The first two of those we’ve seen on what seems like a weekly basis, with cabinet members tagging along for political rallies and a White House staff that does not appear to understand ethical restrictions against promoting Trump, the candidate, from the offices of Trump, the incompetent president—but I believe the alienating Americans who did not vote for him ship has sailed.

Many, many ethics experts have been weighing in on myriad improprieties that the Trump “White House” is now trying to pass off as business as usual—emphasis on the business part—but here’s the kicker that most journalists and pundits have so far been missing: Donald Trump, according to friends quoted anonymously by those journalists, hates his job. He may or may not have been contemplating quitting, but the odds that Trump genuinely wants or intends to stay in office for eight years instead of four seem remote. He’s campaigning for re-election five months in—for a job he already despises?

We have an excellent idea of what Donald Trump likes and what he doesn’t like, because he won’t stop insufferably going on about it. He loves appearing in front of adoring crowds. He loves making money. He loves going to his own properties, and bragging about those properties to a national press duty-bound to follow him around.

So when Donald Trump orders his campaign to book a high-priced fundraiser at his own Washington hotel, is he doing it because he sincerely already wants to run for re-election after only months in office? Or is he doing it because he gets to pocket a nontrivial amount of cash for holding the event in the first place?

That last bit is the part where pundits are still giving Trump the benefit of the doubt even though he has never, during any point in his very short political career, turned out to be a better or more decent person than critics had originally surmised. Ethics experts are raising red flags about a sitting president using his office as a profit center for his own business empire, whether it be by holding government functions at those properties or “campaign”-related events, but nobody is yet making the obvious, cynical conclusion that Trump’s “re-election” campaign isn’t necessarily a “campaign” at all. It’s just a way for Trump to continue to (1) give rallies feting himself, one of the few things the man seems to enjoy in life, and (2) funnel “campaign” cash to his own private empire.

Whatever his faults or skills might be, he’s not a complicated man. Presume he is operating solely for his own fame or financial game and, so far, you would be right nine out of ten times you presumed it.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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