Former President Donald Trump knows a grifter when he sees one. And so, apparently, do the people closest to him.
Those grifting off the Trump name include, of course, Trump himself, who has been accused of not paying his workers, stiffing his own lawyers, paying $25 million to settle a fraud lawsuit against his sham university, leaving real estate investors on the hook for failed projects, rolling out a litany of gimmicks and failed products, and redirecting money from his children's cancer charity to his own company-a company so steeped in grift that it dedicated a spreadsheet to keeping track of it all.
Trump took this ethic with him to the presidency and beyond, with his political apparatus spending more than $12 million on Trump properties and products-including $5,000 on "Trump Ice" water six years after it was discontinued. Even more incredibly, his daughter and son-in-law raked in as much as $640 million while serving in the White House.
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The audacity, then, of some of his closest hangers-on throwing stones at each other about grifting off the Trump name comes off as a bit rich. But those jockeying for position in Trump's inner circle have found that the line of attack works with the former president.
"He notices," a senior Trump adviser said of the people in the former president's orbit who are making money off the Trump brand. "He also notices who was there, who will be there, and why they are there."
The "grifters," this adviser continued, seem to be the people who "disproportionately enriched themselves during Trump's presidency."
Those names include some of the most familiar grandstanders, profiteers, and carnival barkers in MAGA Land-from anti-college activist Charlie Kirk to Palm Beach popinjay Roger Stone to alt-right puppet master-turned-alt-right podcaster Steve Bannon.
But any increase in Trump's skepticism about the purity of heart of those around him would seem to come at a critical time-as the ex-president, bayed by a number of investigations that have begun to creep into his inner circle, tries to smoke out a possible FBI informant within the walls of Mar-a-Lago and expends millions of dollars in donor cash to cover legal costs for associates who could turn on him at any moment.
While Trump famously loves to make money off his own name, he's not so keen on those in his orbit doing the same. In fact, Trump's political team created an entire in-house company to manage the 2020 campaign after the 2016 bid for the White House was mired with accusations of grift.
That shell company, American Made Media Consultants, eventually processed-and covered up-more than $770 million in expenses. But while AMMC helped ensure transparency within the campaign-following former campaign manager Brad Parscale's $100 million 2016-the setup only drew further accusations of grift from the outside, because it hid the true recipients of the campaign's payouts from public view.
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A senior Trump aide told The Daily Beast that AMMC was created to address concerns about Parscale's dual roles as campaign manager and media broker.
"After 2016, the campaign lawyers came in and basically said they were paranoid about Brad's dual roles as both campaign manager and a clearinghouse for [campaign] payments," the aide said. "They suggested creating a new company to handle the money side, and Brad and Jared [Kushner] said it was a good idea… for transparency and also because Brad was by that point tired of catching shit."
But that was 2020. And even though Trump lost, the post-presidency has been just as rife with grifting as ever before-at least according to Trump's own aides.
"You can't forget Charlie Kirk," one senior Trump adviser said, with another adviser also naming Kirk as one of the biggest grifters in Trump's orbit.
Kirk rose to MAGA stardom after he built the conservative student organization Turning Point USA. Now, at just 28, some around Trump feel that Kirk and TPUSA are associating themselves with the former president to "cash in."
One of the sources expressed surprise-and annoyance-over the "sheer profit" that the conservative group has pulled in just by using a go-to Trumpworld fundraising line: "We just talked to the president."
Asked for comment, TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet did not address the criticism and instead attacked The Daily Beast's credibility.
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"With respect, forgive me if I'm suspicious of any inquiry that begins with 'Two current Trump advisors spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity,'" Kolvet said.
Kirk owes his close relationship with Trump in part to a longtime Turning Point speaker, Kimberly Guilfoyle-the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr.-who helped foster a tight-knit connection between the two men.
"The president is very fond of her," one source close to Trump said of Guilfoyle. But Trumpworld sources also accused Guilfoyle of enriching herself through "access and proximity" to the former president, with stories ranging from luxury clothing to more shocking payouts.
"There is one story of a donor buying her boots that were very expensive," one adviser said. Other sources pointed to Guilfoyle's former $15,000 monthly payments via Parscale, as well as her Jan. 6 speech, which lasted two minutes but garnered her $60,000.
A source close to Guilfoyle-who herself worked as a high-dollar fundraising bundler for the Trump campaign-said the $60,000 payment was for multiple campaign-related events, declining to elaborate further.
Quantitatively, the biggest beneficiary of the Trump brand, other than Trump himself, is almost certainly Jared Kushner.
Again, Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump walked out of their four years in the White House having increased their personal wealth by as much as $640 million, according to a CREW investigation. But that's small potatoes compared to the deals Kushner has chased since he left D.C.
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One Trump adviser accused Kushner of making "billions" off of Trump's name and his time in the White House via his new private equity firm, Affinity Partners, which has drawn heavy backing from Saudi financiers.
Yet, a source close to Kushner pushed back on the "factually inaccurate" claim that runs wild among Trump confidants, telling The Daily Beast that Affinity Partners has only received a "commitment," which is money that can't be spent.
Other punching bags include erstwhile Trump whisperers like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, whose relationships with the former president ebb and flow. Both men carried enough weight to secure presidential pardons, but neither are currently considered part of Trump's inner circle-a fact that hasn't stopped them from boasting otherwise.
Two Trump advisers spotlighted Stone as "vindictive" and untrustworthy. One of them added that Stone remains one of the many "sycophants" who "beg for attention" from the former president.
(When reached by The Daily Beast, Stone's comment was just a guess who the sources were for this story.)
And then there is Bannon. While the right-wing media manipulator isn't as flamboyant as Stone, his maneuvering at a distance-especially following his 2017 White House ouster-hasn't escaped Trump's eye.
Bannon and Trump didn't speak for three years after his firing, according to a source close to Trump. The former president, according to this source, was "apoplectic" over Bannon's role in the "We Build The Wall" scam-a grift that drafted behind Trump's unfulfilled campaign promise, eventually drawing federal conspiracy charges for money laundering and fraud.
Nevertheless, Trump pardoned Bannon in his final weeks in office for specifically those charges, while the MAGA-loyalist turned WarRoom podcast host was making it his life's mission to prove the 2020 election should be decertified. (Bannon is reportedly now a focus of a New York state investigation into the scheme.)
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Still, Bannon hasn't really gotten back into Trump's good graces.
"They don't really talk," one of the senior Trump advisers said, with another current Trump staffer backing that up.
Instead, Bannon and his former boss take in each other's material through "osmosis," according to a Trumpworld source, and a supply of favorable Trump headlines generated by Bannon's remarks (or ongoing legal proceedings).
"These fake assertions are ridiculous and those who are peddling these falsehoods are neither with President Trump, nor for President Trump," a Bannon spokesperson told The Daily Beast. "They are grifters trying to sow discord so they can line their own pockets. They are being flushed out."
A Trump spokesperson didn't return The Daily Beast's request for comment on this story.
But as the MAGA soap opera drags on, Trump finds himself preoccupied with more existential threats-potential Republican 2024 rivals circling him and increasingly ominous investigations closing in.
"Right now, I think he is mostly concerned about bad advice," a Trump adviser said. "That's why he's beefing up his legal team."
Still, as Trump becomes more obsessed with loyalty than perhaps ever, the accusations of grift are hitting with new weight. And these advisers who are looking to further ingratiate themselves with Trump are seeing a new opportunity amid the chaos.
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