Donald Trump is no longer president, but there’s a distinct similarity between his time in and out of office: Republican elected officials and political operators are simultaneously enabling his dangerous corruption and lining his pockets. The latest example of this took place last weekend as the Save America Summit hosted at Trump National Doral.
Women for America First, the dark money group that hosted the summit, was also behind Trump’s January 6th rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. The group named Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds and Beth Van Duyne, all of whom spread Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen election and voted against his impeachment and conviction, as special guests of the event. The group also designated former Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan a special guest.
Far from hiding their roles in the attempts to overturn the election, participants at the Save America Summit celebrated them. On a list of the focuses for the conference, the group included “Election Integrity (Priority).” Gaetz opened his remarks saying, ”Keep fighting. After the Russia hoax, the knockoff Ukraine impeachment sequel, and an election that was stolen as a consequence of illegal last minute changes to the rules, folks have sort of gotten to know that I’ll take on the establishment of both parties, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The event also served as free publicity for Trump’s resort. Women for America First advertised “a fantastic hotel rate of $199 per night at Trump National Doral for summit attendees,” a discount from the average room rate, as well as golf and spa discounts at the resort. Representative Donalds tweeted “The left might have canceled baseball in Atlanta, but golf and freedom are alive and well at @TrumpDoral for the @america1stwomen Save America Summit” alongside pictures of him on the course.
Throughout his presidency, it was clear that Trump’s favor could be bought by driving money to his businesses. Rather than conducting oversight, Senator Paul and Representatives Gaetz and Gohmert readily embraced this system. During Trump’s time in office, Gaetz and Paul were the #2 and #3 top visitors to Trump properties among members of Congress with twenty two and twenty visits respectively. Gohmert made five visits. Because their corrupt behavior passed without any significant accountability, it’s no wonder that new members of Congress like Greene have followed in their footsteps.
Likewise, Trump has rewarded those who amplified his lies of a stolen election and widespread voter fraud. While some of the summit’s attendees initially decried the attack on the Capitol, they voted against Trump’s impeachment and conviction. Senator Paul released a statement saying “Chaos. Anarchy. It’s wrong and un-American… My oath to the Constitution doesn’t allow me to disobey the law. I cannot vote to overturn the verdict of the states,” but later found Trump not guilty for instigating the chaos, in part by misrepresenting Congress’ powers. Gaetz tweeted “America is not a country where political violence is acceptable,” but voted against Trump’s impeachment and attacked Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted for impeachment, in front of a group of hundreds of Trump supporters in her home state of Wyoming. While other Republican officials, such as the Georgia secretary of state, have been excoriated by the GOP for not bending to Trump’s will, Paul, Gaetz, and their colleagues are visiting a Trump property as the special guests of a dark money group that also endeavored to overturn the election. Their failure to hold Trump accountable allowed him to retain his political clout, keep open the possibility of running for president again and continue to peddle influence and political support.
The Save America Summit shows that Trump-era corruption is alive and well. Women for America First and the multiple members of Congress in attendance helped Trump foment an insurrection, protected his political power in the aftermath and continue to personally enrich him. A thorough congressional investigation is needed into the attempted insurrection on January 6th. It must include not only the role these groups played in inciting the insurrection, but also how they continue to legitimize and participate in Trump’s corruption and election lies.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.