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Tomgram: Nomi Prins, Trump Wins (Even If He Loses)

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To put this in context, that $18.4 million is more than the approximately $17 million that all of Trump's individual supporters, the "little people," have contributed to his campaign. (He is no Bernie Sanders who raised $220 million from individuals in the 2016 campaign season.) Even with all his wealth, Trump is in a funding nightmare, lacking the confidence of the Republican party and its most generous loyalists.

To be sure, other establishment billionaires have expressed support for Trump, like funding kingpin Sheldon Adelson who said he'd fork over $100 million to the Trump cause. It's just that he hasn't done that yet. Chris Christie is similarly trying to help raise funds for the campaign. But the man-who-would-be-veep hasn't had much luck. So far, at least, Trump's biggest establishment supporters have been more talk than action.

The Trump Team

In addition to the usual money not flowing in from the usual crowd, there's the issue of actually preparing to staff a future administration with the usual people, not to speak of the seasoned set of advisers that normally surround presidential candidates. Increasingly, it seems that they may not be available or have already left the proverbial building -- and that's a problem.

Trump has vowed to fill his administration with "the best people." (In a perfect world, they would, of course, be his clones.) Yet so far, he's been pursuing what he has characterized as a "lean" strategy, which means that few are yet on board and it's getting late in the game to fake it.

Usually by this time in the election cycle, nominees have pulled together their inner circle, mostly from well-known or rising establishment players, including policy wonks by the bucketful. He hasn't. According to Vin Weber, a D.C.-based partner at Mercury, which bills itself as a global, high-stakes public strategy firm, who crafted Mitt Romney's "policy shop" in 2012, the lack of infrastructure is unprecedented. Romney's policy shop was first formed 18 months before the 2012 election and fine-tuned in January 2012. We're in July 2016 and from Trump on this score -- nothing. Nada. "Nobody in Washington that I know of," Weber says, "is assembling a staff for an incoming Trump administration."

Given his public war with his party, Trump may find himself without anyone left to fire. It's one thing to cut back on government, another to have no one around to do anything.

Maybe winging it on national policy and disparaging those who might someday make such policy is endearing in The Donald, but not to the Washington establishment. Whatever the case, it might be useful before the Republican convention, which already promises to be a bizarre spectacle, to consider who Trump's "best people" are -- and aren't -- at the moment. Who are his most loyal advisers and supporters? Who would take a political bullet for him or put that bullet in him?

For the answers to such questions, it's necessary to consider three categories: blood, money, and power. In the land of Trump (and Clinton), of course, blood -- that is, family -- comes first; financial interests, second; and the political power-elite (a.k.a. the establishment), last.

For Trump, family is foremost; general election finances are still remarkably lacking; and that final group remains infinitesimal, given how big the Washington establishment actually is. And do note that this has not been because The Donald hasn't tried to broaden his establishment support. He just seems congenitally unable to succeed at it. It's a deal he can't broker. His supporters may think of him as one of them, but his outsider status has come about by default, not by strategic choice, and it shows.

Trump's most loyal support comes from his family who make up his core "board of advisers." They are anything but inside-the-Beltway types. If, however, he were to make it to the Oval Office, they could certainly be the new Clintons, the latest bloodline in Washington.

So from family to finances to establishment, here's a rundown on key players in Trump World, who's up and who's down, who's in and who's out.

Trump's Establishment Gets on Board

Ivanka Trump, Campaign Adviser

Omnipresent in his campaign, daughter Ivanka is the executive vice president of development and acquisitions in the Trump Organization. She "actively participates in all aspects of both Trump and Trump branded projects." The presidency is, of course, the ultimate branded project and were the economy to fall off a cliff one Trumpian day, the White House might make the perfect Trump luxury condo building.

For all practical purposes, Ivanka, not wife Melania, is Trump's "first lady" (in waiting). She appeared on the presumptive board of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. It was widely rumored that she was the one who had the clout to get Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who lifted Trump to victory in the primaries, fired. Put another way, the "establishment apprentice" got the shaft because he crossed the person with the real power in Trump's campaign.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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