The key to aggressive haggling is being willing to walk away from the negotiation. But Donald Trump is now haggling with the Kochs to be paid to walk away. That seems to be the implication of an evolving story that began Friday.
Politico reported that, without prompting, a former Trump adviser said in an interview, Friday,
“I bet if someone offered him $150 million to drop out, he would,”
Asked about whether Trump would drop, another former Trump adviser, Jim Dornan said he believes the presumptive GOP nominee would cut a deal. “Yeah, probably,” Dornan, a veteran Republican operative who worked from Trump last spring on an abortive effort to set up a super PAC, replied via text message — adding there would be plenty of interest in buying him out. “The Kochs would be the first in line.”
One Republican jumped at the opportunity. Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, who has been a conservative leader of the Never Trump movement, tweeted,
Done. Dinner in NY Monday, private room at Daniel, reservation under name of @Reince. 15 billionaires, $10m each. https://t.co/riAPnNWcD0
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) June 17, 2016
Despite Kristol’s suggestion that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus should host a meeting with 15 billionaires to buy Trump out of the race, Priebus and the RNC are among Trump’s most solid backers, at least publicly, in the GOP.
But the Politico story continued,
Trump himself says it’s a ridiculous proposition and that he’s not a fan of the question.
“This story is a total fabrication from you and POLITICO, as usual,” the New York billionaire said in an email sent by his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. “I will never leave the race, nobody has enough money to pay me to leave the race, and if they did, it would be totally illegal anyway. Did Obama and the Clintons get you to write this garbage?”
Trump seemed eager to beat back this story. His former adviser may have gone off the reservation. He has no interest in dropping out. Right?
Wall Street Journal reporter who covers politics and campaign finance, Rebecca Ballhaus was live-tweeting a Trump rally in Phoenix, when she reported that he said,
Trump says if offered $5 billion to drop out, “I guess we’d have to think about it”
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) June 18, 2016
Now, $5 billion is a preposterous sum of money. It’s twice as much as the entire amount spent by both parties and outside groups on the presidential race in 2012. And that was a record-breaking year. This year was likely to shatter that record, as the spending arms race skyrockets. Trump himself is a monkey wrench in that trend, though, since he’s struggling as a fundraiser.
It is remarkable that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate is publicly entertaining the idea that he’s not fully committed to being the party’s presidential candidate. That has to be wholly unprecedented at this stage of the race. It is remarkable that as his rivals from across the political spectrum constantly pelt him with the charge that he is just a conman grifting our system, that he would do anything to confirm that charge, especially as Never Trump GOP delegates try to organize their last stand at the convention.
The Kochs Could Afford To Bribe Trump Out Of The Race
It’s hard to know how serious this actually is. The Republican candidate could just be toying with the GOP in his manner of belittling anyone and everyone. He could have every intention of seeing this to the bitter end, but is speaking erratically off the top of his head, as he is certainly capable of doing. But if this is a serious possibility, $5 billion would obviously be an aggressive opening bid.
The billionaire Koch brothers bankrolled Mitt Romney for almost half a billion dollars in 2012, and planned to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. That was before Trump clinched the nomination and they put their funds on hold, or at least planned to redirect them away from the presidential race. During the 8 years of the Obama presidency, the net worth of Charles and David Koch has grown from $19 billion total to $41 billion each. Yet, they are hellbent on spending their money to elect Republicans.
So, if Trump’s offer to drop out got closer to $1 billion, the Kochs could certainly afford it, though they obviously would not be happy about it. And it would be a waste of a lot money earmarked for supporting Republicans.
But let’s be crystal clear about something. Even Trump’s suggestion that he could consider dropping out of the race for a massive bribe, and the fact that GOP billionaires might consider it, is corruption of a staggering, Constitution-threatening order.