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Why the Trump campaign never fundraised off the Hunter Biden trial

1 month ago 225

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts during a campaign event, in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. June 9, 2024. 

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has spent years attacking Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's only surviving son, and raising campaign cash on his unfounded claims that the Biden family is corrupt and above the law.

Long before Hunter Biden was found guilty Tuesday of three federal gun crimes, Trump made the 54-year-old lawyer and recovering drug addict the centerpiece of his bare-knuckle campaign against Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election.

Three years later, Trump's attacks on Hunter Biden got so bad that Biden's attorneys sent Trump's team a cease-and-desist letter, saying that Trump's constant railing against the younger Biden on social media was both "defamatory" and "could lead to his or his family's injury."

With a history like this, it's easy to imagine that Hunter Biden's trial and subsequent conviction for lying on a federally mandated form he filled out to purchase a Colt Cobra handgun while he was addicted to crack cocaine would present a fundraising bonanza for the Trump campaign.

But it didn't. On the contrary, since the start of the trial, Trump does not appear to have mentioned Hunter Biden on any of his fundraising platforms, according to a CNBC analysis of advertising and fundraising data.

Since June 1, Trump's political operation has spent more than $200,000 on Facebook and Instagram advertisements, according to the social media giant's ad archive. None of those ads mentioned Hunter Biden's name.

The latest Trump ads on Google and YouTube are also devoid of any mention of Hunter Biden. The same is true for Trump's campaign emails and text messages.

So what's going on here?

The answer appears to be a few different things.

"Most Americans know somebody who is struggling or has struggled with addiction. To use that addiction as a way to score points or raise money doesn't sit well with voters of all stripes," said Evan Siegfried, a former press aide to Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

"Trump and Republicans have accused Hunter Biden of being at the center of a massive web of corruption involving his father as vice president. The case has no relation to those allegations," Siegfried said.

Trump's campaign said much the same thing.

"This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine," said Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt in a statement after the verdict.

But there's more to it than just the distraction argument. The unprecedented conviction of the sitting president's only living son also undermines a key Trump campaign talking point and one that has proven to be an extremely lucrative fundraising hook: That the Biden White House is controlling the Justice Department and corruptly directing the myriad criminal prosecutions Trump faces.

"It, at a minimum, slows the momentum and the clear-cut argument that the Trump campaign previously had about Biden's weaponization of the justice system," a Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity told NBC News.

Indeed, Trump's digital fundraising efforts have primarily focused on his own conviction May 30 by a New York jury on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to a porn star. Trump has continued to deny the charges.

Trump's team sent a text message June 5 that featured commentary from Lara Trump, the former president's daughter-in-law and Republican National Committee co-chair. "My father-in-law DID NOTHING WRONG," the text message said.

The text leads to a fundraising page that says, in all-capital letters, that Trump's conviction is a "slap in the face" and told potential donors "they're after you — he's just in their way."

And those digital fundraising endeavors have given a boost to Trump.

The Trump campaign announced May 31 that in the 24-hour period after the former president's conviction it raised over $50 million.

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