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AP Explains: Trump ‘Wall Defense Fund’ cash goes to campaign

FILE - In this March 2, 2019 file photo, a razor-wire-covered border wall separates Nogalas, Mexico, at left, and Nogales, Ariz. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is urging supporters to contribute to a “Wall Defense Fund” as it seeks to cash in on opposition to the president’s signature campaign promise. But there is no separate fund or account to advocate for wall construction. Instead, the money goes right into the campaign’s general coffers. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is urging supporters to contribute to a “Wall Defense Fund” as it seeks to cash in on opposition to the president’s signature campaign promise.

But there is no separate fund or account to advocate for wall construction. Instead, the money goes right into the campaign’s general coffers.

A look at what’s afoot:

WHAT’S THE PITCH?

In recent fundraising texts and emails, the president’s Republican campaign has said it is “launching” its “Official Wall Defense Fund to give us the resources we need to fight back against liberals who want to tear down our borders.”

“Stand with President Trump,” read one appeal, “and let’s FINISH THE WALL.”

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WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?

The campaign’s chief operating officer, Michael Glassner, said the appeals are “a method of raising funds to support the re-election of President Trump. Supporters and donors know that completing the wall is a primary goal for the president, and that the only way to get it done is for him to be re-elected. Democrat candidates oppose the wall, and many even support tearing down existing portions.”

Trump last week issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting an effort by Democrats and Republicans to stop him from using emergency powers to circumvent Congress for wall construction money. Trump and his aides believe his hard-line immigration stance was key to his 2016 victory and intend to continue hammering the issue during his re-election campaign.

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IS THAT LEGAL?

Experts said the plea was a common fundraising method.

“Political committees have a lot of freedom to raise money how they want,” said Erin Chlopak, director of campaign finance strategy at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. “There’s no honesty requirement, per se.”

Andrew Herman, an attorney at Miller & Chevalier who specializes in federal campaign and election law, said that “obviously” the emails’ main appeals are “completely misleading,” but that the campaign does make clear in fine print how the money will be spent using standard disclaimer language.

But he said the pitch makes clear what message the campaign thinks will resonate with supporters.

“It’s not that we need your money for our re-election campaign. Clearly they think the wall is a lure for their donors,” he said.

The campaign did not provide numbers, but Glassner said the campaign has “been very successful because people know the wall is important to American public safety.”

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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