Shortly after news of former President Donald Trump’s indictment hit on Thursday, his campaign wasted no time in firing up his base to open their wallets.
A pair of fundraising emails were sent out that night. “We are living through the darkest chapter of American history,” the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee said in one message. It then called on supporters to, “Please make a contribution — of truly any amount — to defend our movement from the never-ending witch hunts and WIN the WHITE HOUSE in 2024.”
Also see: Right-wing social platforms rally after reports of Trump indictment, quarterly results
Another email offered “I Stand With Trump” t-shirts, which also featured the indictment date “03.30.2023” on them. “And what better way to show your support for President Trump and our incredible movement during this dark chapter in our nation’s history than to proudly wear the brand-new ‘I Stand with President Trump T-shirt?” the message asked. It also claimed the tees were “flying off the shelves,” and supporters only had until midnight to claim theirs.
Sen. Lindsey Graham even called on Fox News viewers to donate to Trump’s campaign and help cover the former president’s legal fees on Thursday night. “Give the president some money to fight this bullshit,” he said. “Stand up and help the man.”
Expect this to be just the tip of the fundraising iceberg.
“Trump is going to be able to raise a lot of money off of this, and this could probably chill the Republican field for the presidency a little bit now,” Douglas Wilson, a Democratic strategist and principal political consultant at Alexander Wilson Company LLC, told MarketWatch.
He called the Trump campaign’s fundraising emails and the t-shirts “a good move” following the indictment, because “they are going to be able to raise money off it, and solidify his position as a frontrunner” heading into the 2024 race.
“Trump’s fundraising will go through the roof,” agreed Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington, while speaking to Reuters. “More perceived politically motivated indictments could cause a large spike in small-dollar donations for Trump and cut into [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ efforts on raising money.”
Even before the indictment came down on Thursday, in fact, the Trump campaign said it had raised roughly $2 million in grass roots donations in the week after March 18, when Trump announced that he was going to be arrested over the hush-money payments made to two women in 2016.
Trump is due to release the figures for his presidential campaign’s finances during the first three months of 2023 on April 15. And while his online fundraising was looking a little soft over the past year (roughly $46 million in the second half of 2022, which was less than the approximately $50 million Trump raised during the same period the year before) the indictment and looming arrest are poised to give his campaign coffers a boost.
The indictment is also sparking a cottage industry of both pro-Trump merch and anti-Trump merch that seems clearly inspired by the indictment, as well. Scrolling through Etsy and Amazon now shows t-shirts, buttons, stickers and lawn signs stamped with missives like “I Stand With Trump” and “I’m Still A Trump Girl: I Make No Apologies” for those who support the former president, as well as “Finally Indicted” and “Lock Him Up” for those reveling in the criminal charges.
In fact, media and marketing experts say that his mug shot — if made public — could become one of the most famous images of the 21st Century, and cement itself as a cultural icon.
Read more: Why a Donald Trump mug shot ‘could become the culture icon of our time’
And Trump’s NFT collection — aka the Trump Digital Trading Cards — also saw their floor price spike over 20% Thursday, to as high as around $1,098, according to data from NFT marketplace OpenSea.
Read more: Trump NFT prices rally after the former U.S. president was indicted
What’s more, Stormy Daniels — real name Stephanie Clifford, an adult film star at the center of the hush-money scandal — tweeted that she’s seen a run on “Team Stormy” t-shirts and autographed photos from her own merchandise site since the news hit. “Thank you to everyone for your support and love! I have so many messages coming in that I can’t respond … also don’t want to spill my champagne,” she tweeted. She added that orders for her merch are “pouring in,” and asked buyers to “allow for a few extra days for shipment.”
Democrats, on the other hand, need to tread lightly right now, strategist Wilson said. “Democrats have to be very careful in trying to raise money off of this, because they don’t want to feed into the fodder that the GOP is putting out there that this [indictment] is political,” he said. “So my advice to Democrats would be … to just let the legal process play itself out.”
Related: Trump indictment draws ‘lock him up’ cheers and ‘it is un-American’ jeers online
There have been reports of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, sending out a text blast Thursday afternoon asking for donations to a new political-action committee (PAC) called Campaign for Democracy to fight other likely Republican 2024 contenders. But it should be noted that the message did not mention Trump, or suggest that Newsom was running for president.
Wilson said he was also aware of some progressive-leaning groups sending similar rallying text messages.
President Joe Biden has declined to comment on the legal predicament of his predecessor, telling reporters that, “I’m not going to talk about the Trump indictment,” before traveling to a Mississippi town that was hit by a tornado last week.
But Wilson also noted that the unprecedented indictment of a former U.S. president on criminal charges is something neither political party should really be happy about.
“If you look at it in another way, there’s nothing really good to raising money off of this,” he said.
“This is the first time the country has indicted a former president — so is that something that both parties want to celebrate? Is that something Democrats want to raise money off of? ‘Look, we got him?’” he asked.
But even Republicans, who have more leverage to fundraising in support of Trump right now, should think of their messaging, Wilson suggested.
“There is the famous saying that you have to wait to see the other shoe drop,” he said.
More on MarketWatch:
Trump set to surrender Tuesday — here’s what’s next after his indictment
How Trump’s presidency became inextricably linked with catch-and-kill — setting the stage for his indictment
What is an indictment, and what does being indicted mean for Trump? Legal terms explained.