Exxon Wants You to Know that Trump Didn’t Shake Them Down for a $10-Million Campaign Donation
ExxonMobil was scrambling Monday to clarify that it never received pressure from Donald Trump for a US$10-million campaign donation, after the rapidly-fading presidential candidate used the colossal fossil as an (apparently hypothetical) example of his fundraising prowess Monday evening.
“We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO,” Exxon tweeted shortly afterwards, and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”
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“We don’t need to get on the phone, we prefer to talk to Trump in person,” replied Oil Change International campaigner Collin Rees.
The tweets began flying after Trump set a match to his own Dumpster fire, in a bid to declare himself the “greatest fundraiser in history”. Trump’s presidential campaign is currently trailing Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so badly that the Republicans are pulling advertising dollars out of major swing state markets, with less than two weeks to go before the November 3 vote.
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“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” Trump said. “‘Hi, how you doing? How’s energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay….I’d love you to send me $25 million for the campaign.'”
CNN fact checker and former Toronto Star investigative ace Daniel Dale, noted that Trump’s comment had been taken out of context. “Trump’s point was that it compromises a president to make personal fundraising calls to big CEOs, so he won’t.”
But maybe he doesn’t have to. Dale’s TV network noted that the failed real estate magnate and noted golf enthusiast “is crushing Joe Biden in campaign donations from the embattled oil and gas industry. The president and outside groups aligned with him have raised nearly $13 million from individuals at oil and gas companies, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics. That easily dwarfs the $976,000 the industry has sent to Biden,” and “the magnitude of Trump’s money advantage far exceeds those of Republicans in each of the past three presidential races.”
And on her excellent Heated newsletter (subs here), veteran climate journalist Emily Atkin concluded that “Trump asked Exxon for money. Period.” In fact, she says, we all saw him do it in real time, with a public comment she described as “an S.O.S. call directly to the fossil fuel industry”.
Atkin’s reinterpretation of that message: “If you want me to win,” it read, “you’re going to have to pony up.”
“It wasn’t a direct call. It never is. That’s not how Trump operates,” Atkin wrote. “There are subtler, more effective ways to convey your most despicable positions and desires. Trump and his supporters have long employed this particular mob-like form of communication, which lives and dies on plausible deniability. I never said I’d break that guy’s legs if he didn’t give me money. All I said was, it’d sure be awful if someone broke that guy’s legs.”
Trump could only carry it off he could plausibly deny it, she added. And with its follow-up tweet, “Exxon—the true master of plausible deniability—joined the chorus.” But “the conversation did happen—right there, on that stage in Arizona, for everyone to see.” And by now, “everyone should know what Trump was asking, why he was asking for it, and who he was asking it from. Either the next president is going to break the fossil fuel industry’s legs, or they’re going to break ours.”