This email will shock you! But it’s just Trump trying to raise money

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Followers of former President Donald Trump were meant to be startled when they were sent an email Tuesday, addressed from “President Trump,” with this arresting subject line:

“They were authorized to shoot me!”

The preview line in the email did not back down.

“I nearly escaped death. Biden’s DOJ was locked and loaded for deadly force at Mar-a-Lago …”

Literal readers of Trump’s message might wonder: Is this a cry for help from physical harm?

But everyone should know it is just Trump asking, again, for money.

Writing fundraising emails for politicians these days frequently seems like an exercise in clickbait, but alleging a life in danger is something new. It also feels like a twist on the outrageous “absolute immunity” argument Trump’s lawyer made before the US Supreme Court last month that presidents should, at least in theory, be able to call out a hit on a political rival and not face prosecution.

What is Trump talking about?

The actual facts of the “authorized to shoot me” allegation, as reported by CNN, are these:

A recently unsealed document outlining the FBI’s procedure for searching Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in 2022 for classified documents included standard language about the “use of force” in searches.

From CNN’s report by Tierney Sneed, Katelyn Polantz, Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz:

The document, called a law enforcement operations order, explains what agents were permitted to bring with them when they searched Trump’s estate and how they were allowed to operate as part of the search. It also includes boilerplate language from the Justice Department manual about use of force, including the limited circumstances in which agents are authorized to use deadly force.

What actually happened?

The FBI coordinated the search with the Secret Service and took pains to be as low profile as possible, according to testimony on Capitol Hill last year by Stephen D’Antuono, former FBI assistant director in charge of the Washington field office.

“We made sure we interacted with the Secret Service to make sure we could get into Mar-a-Lago with no issues,” D’Antuono said. “We’re not banging down any doors. We weren’t bringing any like FBI vehicles, everything that was reported about helicopters and a hundred people descending on, like a Die Hard movie, was completely untrue, right.”

Trump was not at Mar-a-Lago when the search occurred, and he actually announced the search was occurring with a post to social media. Read CNN’s original report on the search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

Those details don’t fit into the subject line of an email, and they certainly don’t fit Trump’s narrative that he is being persecuted.

The more important headline from the unsealed documents, according to CNN’s report from Tuesday, was that a federal judge in Washington, DC, found “strong evidence” of crimes before Trump was charged with mishandling classified data. The judge, Beryl Howell, cited the discovery of additional documents with classified markings found in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago bedroom months after the FBI search.

Trump is a master sensationalist, so place the email subject line where he says he’s in physical harm within his oeuvre of over-the-top and untrue allegations.

How to get people to open fundraising emails

The email address where I get fundraising pitches from politicians received seven such messages from Trump on Tuesday.

On any given day, there will likely be at least one that is misleading. Like this one from Tuesday:

“I’ve made a final decision. What do you think of my VP choice?” (In truth, Trump has not announced who his running mate will be).

Other subject lines are pushing merch:

“YOU, have you seen my mugshot? I put it on a mug for you.” (In related news, Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani is now selling his own brand of coffee.)

There are sweepstakes to win trips to Las Vegas and London. (You can enter to win with a $20.24 contribution).

Trump’s allegations about the FBI document were not just contained in the fundraising email.

In a post to social media, he weaved the “deadly force” allegation in with other, ongoing complaints: The temperature in his Manhattan criminal trial courtroom was too cold. Trump thinks President Joe Biden is unfit for office, and he thinks Biden’s Cabinet should remove him from the presidency.

The social media post looked like this:

“WOW! I just came out of the Biden Witch Hunt Trial in Manhattan, the ‘Icebox,’ and was shown Reports that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their Illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE. NOW WE KNOW, FOR SURE, THAT JOE BIDEN IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. HE IS MENTALLY UNFIT TO HOLD OFFICE — 25TH AMENDMENT!”

The truth is that voters will get to weigh in on Biden’s fitness for office. The New York criminal trial judge, Juan Merchan, explained to Trump at trial that raising the thermostat would turn the ice box into an oven. And there’s absolutely no indication whatsoever that anyone in Biden’s Cabinet is now considering or ever has considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

On that last point, the same cannot be said for Trump – some of whose Cabinet members did discuss but did not act on using the 25th Amendment after the riot at the Capitol in 2021.

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