- Former President Donald Trump tried to use the presidency to make money, a fascism expert said.
- Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Insider that Trump is a “dedicated” and talented “con man.”
- “He is robbing his followers,” he said. “He’s making fun of his own followers.”
Donald Trump pursued a single goal as a former US president; a goal that required extreme discipline and dedication from the unlikely leader, according to an authoritarian expert.
“Trump’s goals as president were totally different from any other president, Republican or Democrat,” New York University historian and fascism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Insider. “His goals of him were autocratic in that he wanted to turn public offices into a ship to make money for himself; get private profits from public offices.”
With public hearings on Jan.6 calling for renewed scrutiny over Trump’s final days in office, Ben-Ghiat spoke to Insider’s Charles R. Davis of the uprising, its ongoing aftermath, and the divisive former president at the center. of everything.
In the second televised Congressional Committee hearing earlier this week, lawmakers focused on Trump’s massive fundraising efforts after the 2020 presidential election, in which his campaign sent millions of emails to supporters claiming that “the left mafia” was threatening the integrity of the elections and encouraging potential donors to “step up” and “fight”.
According to investigators, Trump’s lies about voter fraud ultimately led to $ 250 million in donations from Trump supporters following President Joe Biden’s November victory. Most of the money raised went into a PAC that made a significant contribution to pro-Trump organizations and businesses, the panel said.
“So there was this scam going on,” Ben-Ghiat said. “He was extremely disciplined in cheating and trying to use the presidency to make money.”
But the millions of dollars Trump has been able to raise from small-scale donors shouldn’t be all that surprising, according to Ben-Ghiat.
“The sad thing is that autocrats can be very loved by their followers and people genuinely love Trump. He has a true cult of personality,” he said. “But they despise their followers and use them. And this is where he steals his followers [comes in]. Because he’s not robbing the Democrats; he is robbing his followers, he is making fun of his own followers. ”
Trump’s presidential propensity to make money began long before the 2020 election, according to Ben-Ghiat. In his first three years as president, Trump spent nearly a third of his days on a Trump-branded property, the Washington Post found in December 2019.
The former president’s money-making plans go back to even before he won the presidency. When he was first campaigning, Trump was under investigation for defrauding people through Trump University. The scam, Ben-Ghiat said, is his “model”.
“And so if someone who has an authoritarian mindset comes to power, the economy – our daily life – is not at an advantage. It is at a disadvantage because they are not there for public welfare,” he said. “They are not there for public welfare. They are there to enrich themselves and their clan.”
Ben-Ghiat said the former president acted like an autocrat while in office for several reasons. In addition to his focus on money, Trump was also a “superbly disciplined and capable” propagandist, he said.
“He was tweeting over 120 times a day,” he said. “If … we look at what autocrats care about, Trump was extremely disciplined in doing those things.”