Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign
Former US President Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Waterford Township, Michigan, on Feb. 17, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign
  • Trump’s diminished cashflow presents an alarming picture of the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP’s presidential nominee
  • Despite threats of vengeance by Trump, some donors are instead backing his last standing rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s legendary ability to raise massive sums of political cash may be on a collision course with a new and unpleasant reality.

Campaign finance reports released this week flashed bright warning lights, showing two key committees in his political operation raised an anemic $13.8 million in January while collectively spending more than they took in. A major driver of those costs was millions of dollars in legal fees from Trump’s myriad of court cases.
The latest numbers offer only a partial snapshot of the Trump operation’s finances because other branches won’t have to disclose their numbers until April. But Trump’s diminished cashflow nonetheless presents an alarming picture of the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP’s presidential nominee, particularly to would-be donors who aren’t eager to subsidize Trump’s legal challenges.
Despite threats of vengeance by Trump, some are instead backing his last standing rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who outraised Trump’s primary campaign committee by nearly $3 million last month.




Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, center, talks with a young supporter after speaking at a campaign event on Feb. 19, 2024, in Camden, South Carolina. (AP)

In a statement, Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt did not directly address the campaign’s finances.
“President Trump’s campaign is fueled by small-dollar donors across the country from every background who are sick and tired of Crooked Joe Biden’s record-high inflation, wide open border invasion, crime and chaos,” Leavitt said. “Voters don’t want four more years of misery and destruction.”
When asked specifically about the numbers, a Trump spokesman texted a link to a Fox News story published Tuesday, stating that Trump was expected to raise $6 million at a fundraiser held that day.
Legal fees dominated Trump’s January expenditures, amounting to $3.7 million of $15.3 million spent by the two committees. One of the committees, Save America, also held nearly $2 million in unpaid legal debts, the records show.
Save America was bolstered with a cash infusion from a pro-Trump super PAC.
The committee received another $5 million “refund” installment from the super PAC “Make America Great Again Inc.,” which was initially seeded through a $60 million from Save America in the fall of 2022. Instead, Trump campaign officials opted to claw that money back in installments, a running total that has now reached $47 million, records show.
That left Trump’s two committees with $36.6 million in cash on hand compared to Biden’s $132 million stockpile, which he and the Democratic National Committee raised $42 million for in January.
“His endless drama and legal bills will deplete the Republican Party and bring even more electoral losses,” Haley’s communications director, Nachama Soloveichik, said in a statement.
The latest tranche of legal bills comes at a sensitive time, as Trump is orchestrating a takeover of the cash-strapped Republican National Committee, where he plans to install his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as the party’s No. 2 official. Some donors and RNC committee members worry that Trump may soon turn to the RNC to help cover his legal bills, too, considering Trump has made claims of legal persecution a pillar of his campaign.
“Every single penny will go to the number one and the only job of the RNC,” Lara Trump said during a recent interview on the conservative network NewsMax, which she added was to focus on electing Donald Trump.




Lara Trump, daughter-in-law to former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump, signs a campaign material after speaking at a VFW Hall in Beaufort, South Carolina on Feb. 21, 2024. (AFP)

What’s not clear is how much of a drag his prodigious legal spending will be on his finances.
The RNC is also facing headwinds of its own, reporting $8.7 million on hand at the end of January, reports show.
Though Trump’s financially strained position is unusual for the odds-on favorite to clinch a major party’s nomination, there is ample time to reenergize his fundraising. It’s still early in the campaign and — assuming he becomes the nominee — he will be able to raise money in concert with the RNC, which should enable him to receive a check from a single donor worth upwards of $1 million. That’s an advantage that Biden and the DNC currently hold over him.
Over the past year, he’s also used pivotal moments in his ongoing legal drama, including his indictment hearings, to open a spigot of campaign cash from his large base of conservative supporters, who chip in small amounts online.
Still, Trump’s cash woes place him in a familiar, if unwelcome, position that echoes the 2020 presidential race, when he and his aides plowed through $1 billion and a large cash advantage over Biden amid profligate spending.
Trump approached the 2024 race with over $100 million, a substantial amount of which was raised in the early days after his 2020 election loss to Biden, when he bombarded supporters with solicitations for an “election defense fund.” This time, legal fees have proven to be a drain, costing over $80 million over the past two years, records show.
Democrats have reacted with glee.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks if you are Donald Trump and also like money,” said Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesman. “The RNC had its worst fundraising year in decades, is hemorrhaging cash, and now Trump enters the general election with the weakest operation in recent history.”


Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
Updated 7 min 2 sec ago
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Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
  • Decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis

WARSAW: Polish national airline LOT canceled flights on Friday to Tel Aviv and Beirut due to the unstable situation in the region, a spokesperson was quoted as saying by state news agency PAP.
“Today’s flight 151/152 to Israel from Warsaw and to Beirut 143/144 have been canceled,” Krzysztof Moczulski told PAP. He said decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis.


French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate
Updated 7 min 26 sec ago
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French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

PARIS: A man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris was arrested by police, a police source said.
French police earlier cordoned off the Iranian consulate, Reuters reporters saw.
A police source told Reuters the man was seen at about 11 am (0900 GMT) entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest.
Police earlier said they were at the scene and asked the public to avoid the area but provided no further details.
Service was interrupted on a nearby metro line for security reasons, the RATP metro company said.
A person at the Iranian embassy who responded to a call from Reuters declined to provide any information on the situation.
It was unclear whether the incident had any link to the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.
Earlier on Friday, explosions echoed over the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war.


Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
Updated 25 min 15 sec ago
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Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
  • ‘All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation’

CAPRI, Italy: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday refused to comment on reports of an attack by Israel on Iran, beyond saying Washington was “not involved in any offensive operation.”

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with G7 counterparts in Italy, he declined to answer repeated questions about explosions in Iran, and reports that Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes.

“I’m not going to speak to these reported events... All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation,” Blinken told a press conference on the island of Capri.

“The US has not been involved in any offensive operation,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier, G7 host Antonio Tajani, the foreign minister of Italy, said Washington had been informed in advance of the strikes, without giving details.

“The United States were informed at the last moment,” he said, adding that “it was just information” passed on — without saying who by.

The reports dominated the G7 Friday, with Tajani forced to change the agenda, but little public information emerged.

In its final statement, the Group of Seven ministers said: “In light of reports of strikes on April 19th, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end.”

Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly strike — which Tehran blamed on its foe — that levelled Iran’s consular annex at its embassy in Syria.


Indians head to the polls in world’s biggest election

Indians head to the polls in world’s biggest election
Updated 19 April 2024
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Indians head to the polls in world’s biggest election

Indians head to the polls in world’s biggest election
  • Polling takes place in phases over the next six weeks, with results expected on June 4
  • Over 968 million people are registered to vote, with 168.6 million casting ballots on Friday

NEW DELHI: Indian voters headed to the polls on Friday for the first phase of the world’s biggest general election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aiming for a rare third consecutive term.

More than 968 million people are registered to vote, with polling taking place over the next six weeks, as results are expected on June 4.

After April 19, the other voting dates will be April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1, with some states completing the process on a single day, and others having it spread out in several phases.

Friday’s polling was held in 21 states and union territories, including the most populous ones such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, as well as smaller northeastern states and the northern Himalayan territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In Kashmir, this is the first election since its special autonomous status and statehood were scrapped through the Indian government’s controversial constitutional amendment in 2019.

Chief Election Commissioner of India Rajiv Kumar told reporters on Friday that 168.6 million people were expected to cast their ballots on Friday.

“The preparations started, actually, two years back. Wide range of preparations … It’s a tremendous exercise,” he said.

MAIN CONTENDERS

More than 2,600 political parties are registered in the marathon election and 543 contested seats in the lower house of Parliament. The party or coalition that wins at least 272 is going to form the government.

Modi is targeting 400 seats for the National Democratic Alliance led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been in power since 2014.

He is challenged by an alliance of two dozen opposition parties — the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA, led by the Congress Party, which has ruled the country for close to 45 years since its independence in 1947.

The key leader of the opposition coalition is Rahul Gandhi — the son of Rajiv Gandhi, a grandson of Indira Gandhi, and a great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, all of whom served as prime ministers of India.

While the opposition is trying to appeal to Indian youth with promises to tackle unemployment, free education and medical facilities, the BJP has deployed the same tactics as in previous polls — by mobilizing voters through majoritarian Hindu sentiment, despite constitutional provisions that make it a secular state.

Opinion polls show Modi as frontrunner, with 48 percent of respondents in the most recent survey released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies last week naming him as their choice for the prime minister. Gandhi was second, preferred by 27 percent.

“Modi has created an image of a powerful leader, a leader who is not only popular in India but outside too. He has also created an image of not pandering to Muslim communities in India … This image of a leader who does not appease the Muslim sentiments appeals to the Hindu masses. Politics of polarization helps Modi to build an image and aura among a large section of the Hindu voters,” Prof. Venkat Narayan, political analyst and commentator, told Arab News.

“Then the use of social media and the mainstream media is also there to create an image and broaden Modi’s appeal. The media plays a great role in creating this image, they are soft towards Modi and do not ask critical questions.”

If Modi wins the election, he will become the second prime minister, after Nehru, to succeed in three consecutive polls.

“Modi is leading in the polls as he has created an image of doing a lot for different sections of the society. Besides, he projects himself as squeaky clean. People also think that as he has no children, he has no reason to be corrupt or be on the take,” Sanjay Kapoor, analyst and editor of the English-language political magazine Hardnews, told Arab News.

“There are other reasons for his popularity, which include adroit use of media and social media that control all criticism against him. Then there are issues of raising India’s global profile and pursuing an independent foreign policy.”

FUTURE FOREIGN POLICY

Whoever wins the election, the foreign policy direction is likely to remain broadly unchanged, except for India’s orientation toward Israel and Palestine.

Support for Palestine and Palestinian statehood was once an integral part of India’s foreign policy, but in recent years, under Modi’s rule, New Delhi has become closer to Tel Aviv, despite civil society protests breaking out across the country against Israel’s deadly war on Gaza.

“If the INDIA alliance comes to power, then we may see a change in our policy towards Israel and Palestine. The INDIA alliance is sympathetic to Palestinians,” Kapoor said.

“We expect that the INDIA alliance will also restore ties with neighbors like Pakistan, (and) revive SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).”

The member states of SAARC — a regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia — are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The last biennial SAARC summit was hosted by Nepal in 2014. Pakistan was to host the summit in 2016, but it was stalled after India refused to participate, following an attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

VOTERS’ CONCERNS

According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies survey, unemployment emerged as the top concern for 27 percent of respondents.

Some 62 percent also said it has been more difficult to find a job in the last five years — during Modi’s second term in office.

“The biggest concern remains inflation and unemployment. The possibility of getting a job decreases if you study more. People are forced to leave India in search of jobs. Some have even gone as far as Russia and Israel,” Kapoor said. “The situation is really dismal.”

Rising prices and inflation were also a major issue — the top concern for 23 percent of the people surveyed by the CSDS.

“Women and the middle class are concerned about the rising prices. Modi is trying to divert attention from these main issues by talking about religion and temples,” said Shashi Shekhar Singh, associate professor at Satyawati College at the University of Delhi.

The CSDS pre-poll also revealed that despite the ruling party’s narrative promoting Hindu nationalist dominance to establish a majoritarian state in India, only 11 percent of respondents saw India as solely for Hindus.

But there were fears the reality on the ground could change if the BJP tried to amend India’s liberal and democratic constitution.

“Indian secularism and the very idea of a plural democracy is at stake,” Singh said.

“There is a fear that if the BJP comes to power with the thumping majority, the liberal and secular democracy will breathe its last. The BJP might lead the nation further down the path of a Hindu majoritarian state.”


ASEAN says ‘deeply concerned’ over escalating Myanmar violence

ASEAN says ‘deeply concerned’ over escalating Myanmar violence
Updated 19 April 2024
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ASEAN says ‘deeply concerned’ over escalating Myanmar violence

ASEAN says ‘deeply concerned’ over escalating Myanmar violence
  • ASEAN foreign ministers urge ‘all parties for an immediate cessation of violence’ in Myanmar

BANGKOK: Regional bloc ASEAN said it is “deeply concerned” about a recent upsurge in fighting in Myanmar, after fierce clashes over a key trading hub near the Thai border.
The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations urged “all parties for an immediate cessation of violence” in Myanmar, which has been roiled by conflict since the military seized power in a February 2021 coup.
The ministers’ statement issued late Thursday said ASEAN was “deeply concerned over the recent escalation of conflicts, including in the area of Myawaddy.”
The military was last week forced to pull its troops out of positions in the valuable trading post after days of battling with the Karen National Union (KNU) — a long-established ethnic minority armed group — and other anti-junta fighters.
It was the latest blow suffered by the junta, which has suffered a string of battlefield losses in recent months, with some analysts warning it is its most significant threat to date.
Myawaddy is Myanmar’s main trade link to Thailand, and usually sees over a billion dollars worth of trade annually.
The clashes saw people flee across the border into Thailand — from where gunfire and the boom of artillery barrages could be heard.
Thailand has said it is ready to receive people from Myanmar, though the kingdom’s foreign minister warned it would not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty.