The Palm Beach Police and Fire Foundation is planning a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago this winter that will likely put some quarter-million dollars into Donald Trump’s cash registers — despite the former president’s incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol that led to the deaths of five police officers and injuries to 140 more.
The charity would not disclose how much it will be paying Trump’s for-profit South Florida club to host the Jan. 22, 2022, “Policemen’s and Fire Fighters’ Ball.” Tax filings with the IRS, however, show that it paid $235,012 in 2020, $214,760 in 2019 and $262,261 in 2018 in facility rental costs for the same event in those years, all of which were also held at Mar-a-Lago.
A spokesman for the Palm Beach Police Department said it was not involved in choosing the site. “I really cannot provide a comment on whether it’s appropriate or not,” said Capt. Will Rothrock. “The department is apolitical … I can’t really speak to the former president’s actions.”
A Capitol Police officer who was beaten with a flag pole by Trump supporters and had his hand sliced open, though, found the concept of paying Trump offensive.
“Unfortunately, there is a vast amount of people, elected leaders and people of authority like police officers, that say that they are ‘pro law and order and the rule of law,’ yet they disregard what transpired on January 6, 2021,” said Sgt. Aquilino Gonell. “In my opinion they should find another venue and not support someone who betrayed his oath of office and the Constitution by failing to act and defend the Constitution from his supporters.”
Maureen O’Sullivan, a foundation spokeswoman, said the group is not making a statement either way about Trump. “The organization is not politically motivated,” she said.
She added that the group entered a long-term contract with Mar-a-Lago that locks in a lower price than it could otherwise get, and that Palm Beach does not have many places that can host an event that typically draws 700 attendees. “To pull the plug on in it would cost the foundation money,” she said.
Trump did not attend a memorial service for Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, who died hours after being assaulted. Nor has he publicly acknowledged those who were injured on Jan. 6, nor those who died by suicide later.
Instead, he has praised the mob he invited to Washington, D.C., on that day to intimidate his own vice president and Congress into overturning the election he had lost so that he could remain in power. “The real insurrection happened on November 3rd, the Presidential Election, not on January 6th — which was a day of protesting the Fake Election results,” he wrote in a statement issued Wednesday.
He and his allies have also tried to make a martyr of Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was shot to death as she climbed through a broken window into an anteroom from which House members were still being evacuated. Trump now also claims that the hundreds who have been arrested to date are victims of political persecution.
The Palm Beach fundraiser illustrates the continuing alliance between police groups and Trump, notwithstanding his central role in fomenting the Jan. 6 attack as well as his continuing support for his followers as they face criminal charges.
On Sept. 27, for example, the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association held a fundraiser at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J.
Just two weeks earlier, the New York City police department’s 17th precinct, located a few blocks from his Trump Tower building, welcomed him for a Sept. 11 photo opportunity, where he hinted he would run for president again in 2024.
The New Jersey police union did not respond to HuffPost questions about its event. An officer at New York City’s 17th precinct referred questions about the visit to the department’s public information office, which did not respond to HuffPost queries.
The New York City Police Benevolent Association, which represents the city’s police officers and which endorsed Trump’s re-election bid in 2020, also did not respond to HuffPost queries.
On Jan. 8, union president Patrick Lynch condemned Trump’s mob: “We stand with our Capitol Police brothers and sisters and all law enforcement officers who were on the ground, especially the dozens who were injured. Every one of the rioters must face the full consequences of their actions.”
Lynch, however, declined to address Trump’s role in instigating the attack.
Mark Zaid, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents Gonell and another Capitol Police officer who defended the complex on Jan. 6, said police support for Trump today undermines public trust for law enforcement at every level. “It is incredibly disappointing to see those who are sworn to uphold the law literally supporting someone whose position is completely contrary to those interests,” he said.
Trump became the first president in 232 years of U.S. elections to refuse to turn over power peacefully to his successor.
He spent weeks attacking the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 contest he lost, starting his lies in the predawn hours of Nov. 4 that he had really won in a “landslide” and that his victory was being “stolen” from him. Those falsehoods continued through a long string of failed lawsuits challenging the results in a handful of states.
Trump and some of his advisers even discussed using the United States military by invoking the Insurrection Act or declaring martial law to retain power despite having lost the election, including by seizing voting machines and ordering “re-votes” in states narrowly won by President Joe Biden.
But military leaders had earlier made clear they would not involve themselves in the political process, so after the Electoral College finally voted on Dec. 14, making Biden’s win official, Trump instead turned to a last-ditch scheme to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into canceling the ballots of millions of voters in several states Biden won and declaring Trump the winner during the pro-forma congressional certification of the election results on Jan. 6.
Trump asked his followers to come to Washington that day, and then told the tens of thousands who showed up to march on the Capitol to intimidate Pence into doing Trump’s bidding.
His mob of supporters attempted to do just that by storming the building. They even chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after Pence refused to comply with Trump’s demands.
While the House impeached Trump for inciting the attack, all but seven Senate Republicans, led by their leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, chose not to convict him — thereby letting Trump continue his political career even as faces several investigations into his post-election actions.