Trump emails offer trinkets, flattery and insider status for donations

Donald Trump points to his head, wearing a red hat, and standing in front of an American flag.
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Fountain Park, Ariz., on March 19, 2016. in Fountain Hills, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

President Trump has been spamming me for months.

He and his campaign have been sending me 20 or more emails a day, plus as many as 10 text messages a day on my phone.

The emails have been coming since mid-August, almost entirely aimed at trying to get me to donate money to the campaign. The texts started more recently, probably in late September after I tried to access a Trump campaign event from his website. I never got the promised link to the livestream, but I have been bombarded with campaign messaging on my cell phone ever since.

I also get multiple emails a day from the Biden campaign, but they’re all news releases: public statements, pool reports, advisories — the kind of stuff I need for my job.

I could try to unsubscribe from the Trump messages, of course. But it’s been educational to see what Trump’s supporters are hearing from his campaign.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

For a $75 donation, I could get a “PERSONALIZED SIGNED” photo of President Trump. “That’s right. President Trump is truly a man of the people, so to say thank you for your unwavering support, he is going to take his time to individually sign your one-of-a-kind photo and leave you a personal note,” the Aug. 11 email states.

Later emails and texts offered a chance to win a MAGA hat signed by the president, MAGA pint glasses (I’ve already won, I just have to send $35 to claim them), a “beautiful Freedom 2020 hat” (the offer came with a message about the disgrace of pro athletes kneeling during the National Anthem), a signed Sean Hannity book (not sure who signed it), a personalized Trump-Pence yard sign,  an “I LOVE TRUMP” shirt, a set of Trump-Pence lapel pins, a signed Trump-Pence football, two unspecified “free gifts” and much, much more.

A few times, I’ve even been offered the chance to snare expense-paid trips to meet the president, including Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C.: “REMINDER: Team Trump will also cover the cost of your flight, hotel for you and a guest, and you’ll even get to take a picture with the President.” The emails also dangled the chance to win trips to the presidential debates and other Trump appearances around the country.

There were also promises of influence or insider status:

Image of a “Trump MVP” trophy from a campaign email.

The president wanted my input on where to hold his nomination acceptance speech.  “My speech will be absolutely HISTORIC, and when my team asked me where I want to deliver it, I immediately said, ‘Why don’t you ask the American People? They ALWAYS know best.’ I have it narrowed down to two locations — the Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or the White House — and I’d really like YOUR input on this important decision.”  (Spoiler alert: He picked the White House. That wouldn’t have been my choice, given the Hatch Act complications.)

I could be on the Presidential Honor Roll and become a close adviser to the president, for any size donation. According to an email from Donald Trump Jr.:  “When you’re a member of the Trump Presidential Honor Roll, my father will come to YOU FIRST for advice on our campaign strategy as he continues fighting to Keep America Great.”

A Sept. 20 email subject line claimed: “Supreme Court Choice Attached.” There was even a little paperclip symbol, sort of like an email attachment. But there was nothing attached and no early tip about the president’s Supreme Court choice.  He didn’t announce Amy Coney Barrett as his pick until six days later.  It sort of makes me wonder whether those MAGA pint glasses would have really shown up.

A Trump campaign email asked whether he should win the Nobel Prize.

An email sent Sept. 12 wanted me to answer a survey question on whether I thought Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. The email was adorned by a beatific-looking drawing of Trump holding a gleaming, golden trophy. (The actual Nobel Prize is a medal.)

I could be reading this wrong, but I think I was even invited to join the Trump family! I wouldn’t even have to marry any of the Trumps. I’d just need to make a donation to be designated an official member of the “First Family Circle.”

A Trump campaign email offered donors the opportunity to join the “First Family Circle.”

Often, the emails attacked the Biden campaign, like this one from Sept. 13: “Sleepy Joe and Phony Kamala have done ABSOLUTELY nothing but incite fear in the American People and fuel wild anti-vax conspiracy theories. It’s almost like they’d rather watch our Nation suffer than do anything that would help President Trump.”

I think my favorite emails, however, manage to combine flattery and shaming. “Kathie, Where have you been? President Trump asked us to personally reach out to you because he REALLY wants YOU to be his VIP guest for an upcoming Presidential Debate,” a Sept. 20 email says.

Often emails claim the president is personally checking donor lists for my name: “My team is handing me an updated donor list soon. I’ll be looking for your name,” is a frequent refrain.

I hope he’s not spending too much time looking for it.  As a journalist, I never donate money to political campaigns. Someone who professes to know so much about me ought to know that already, don’t you think?

I do have to wonder if this huckster-style approach really works on anyone, though. I’ll wait and see what special offers Trump has for me after Nov. 3. Maybe by then I will have won millions from the Publisher’s Clearing House.