Trump Giving a ‘Political Speech’ to Judicial Watch, Who Isn’t Supposed to Do Politics

Trump Giving a ‘Political Speech’ to Judicial Watch, Who Isn’t Supposed to Do Politics

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump vowed Thursday to give a “big political speech” at the “annual roundtable” for Judicial Watch, a tax-exempt charity that, by law, must not participate in politics at all.

The former coup president, apparently still smarting from a recent magazine story describing his 2024 effort as virtually non-existent, claimed that Thursday night’s appearance showed that he is, in fact, campaigning.

“Making a great political speech today at TRUMP DORAL, in Miami,” he wrote. “The fake news says that I am not campaigning very strongly. I say they are stupid and corrupt, with the elections still a long way off.”

His appearance will be arranged by Judicial Watch, which has a 501(c)(3) tax exemption. This allows donors to deduct their donations to the group, but also prohibits you from getting involved in politics.

Jill Farrell, communications director for Judicial Watch, said she had no concerns about Trump’s planned comments at a “private” event that does not allow for media coverage.

“This is not a campaign speech,” he told HuffPost. “There is no ‘there’ there.”

Robert Maguire of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Judicial Watch’s intimacy with Trump is proof that the IRS is incapable of enforcing regulations on tax-exempt groups. “This is further evidence of the utter inability of the IRS to take action against these groups that are clearly political teams that are using their tax-exempt status as a shield,” he said.

Other tax-exempt groups have been more careful to avoid politics.

When the failed Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, appeared at the Turning Point USA conference last month in Phoenix, the group’s president, Charlie Kirk, made sure to take the stage before her remarks to affirm that her visit was sponsored by TPUSA Action, the charitable 501(c)(4) arm.

Organizations registered under that provision may participate in some policies, and donations made to them are not tax deductible.

On its 2019 and 2020 tax forms, the latest available to the public, Judicial Watch checked the “NO” box in response to the question: “Did the organization engage in direct or indirect campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to the candidates?” ?for public office?

Lloyd Mayer, a professor and expert on tax-exempt organizations at the University of Notre Dame Law School, said Judicial Watch had the right to invite Trump as a former president and would not break the rules as long as Trump did not speak about his campaign. “And even if Trump makes such a mention, if Judicial Watch directed him not to do so but he went off script, Judicial Watch would have a defense because it could claim that he took reasonable steps to prevent such a mention,” Mayer said.

Marcus Owens, former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, said a “very tight” speech by Trump about his experience as president was legitimate. “The challenge for Judicial Watch is that it’s very hard to imagine Donald Trump staying on the script and not talking about his political future,” he said.

Owens said the fact that the event is being held on Trump property, with proceeds flowing directly into Trump’s pocket, was also curious. “There is a question as to whether Judicial Watch is making a contribution to Donald Trump’s campaign,” he said. “They are counting on the IRS not having the agents or the ability, financially, to conduct a Judicial Watch audit at this time.”

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton has been a public supporter of Trump for years. According to an email found by the House committee on January 6, Fitton advised Trump on October 31, 2020, to declare election night regardless of the outcome: “We had an election today, and I won.”

Fitton sent another email on Election Day to remind Trump of his earlier memo. Shortly thereafter, in the early hours of November 4, Trump followed Fitton’s advice, declaring, “Frankly, we won this election.”

Trump continued to lie about a “stolen” election for the next two months and tried to force his own vice president to declare him the winner of the election. The effort culminated in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, which resulted in the deaths of five police officers.

In a statement, Fitton said Judicial Watch was “honored” that Trump spoke to his supporters. “President Trump was engaged in a historic battle against government corruption and abuse, a battle that continues to this day,” Fitton said. “We are honored that supporters of Judicial Watch are being targeted and educated about the current rule of law crisis that so threatens our republic.”

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