U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he could raise millions of dollars for his re-election campaign by offering favours to companies in return for donations “if I wanted to” — though he added “I don’t want to do that” because he would be “totally compromised.”
Speaking to a campaign rally crowd in Prescott, Ariz., Trump was pushing back against reports that he’s trailing his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in fundraising and that his campaign is short on cash.
He said he would be “the greatest fundraiser in history” if he simply called up major energy companies and Wall Street firms and asked for millions of dollars.
“I would raise a billion dollars in one day, if I wanted to,” he said. “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do it.”
Trump then painted a picture of a hypothetical call with the CEO of ExxonMobil to illustrate his point.
“So I call the head of Exxon — I don’t know, I’ll use a company,” he said. “‘Hi, how are you doing? How’s energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.’
“But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘You know, I’d love you to send me $25 million for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely sir, why didn’t you ask? Would you like some more?'”
ExxonMobil clarified on Twitter that such a call between Trump and CEO Darren Woods “never happened.”
According to campaign financial records, individuals affiliated with ExxonMobil have contributed far more to Biden and other Democrats this election cycle than to Trump. While Biden has raised over $111,000 from company members and their families, the Trump campaign has earned just over $69,000.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised over $114,000 in contributions from Exxon Mobil members, compared to just under $30,000 for Trump.
Although Trump made it clear during Monday’s speech that he was picking a company at random, a partial clip of his remarks that isolated the hypothetical ExxonMobil call went viral online and drew condemnation from top Democratic lawmakers.
The clip has since been deleted.
The interaction Trump described in his hypothetical phone call, commonly referred to as a “quid pro quo,” had echoes of the exchange between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last July that led to Trump’s impeachment.
In that phone call, Trump had asked Zelensky for a “favour” of announcing a corruption investigation into Biden and his family, along with other politically advantageous materials, in exchange for previously-approved military aid.
There are also fears that Trump may be compromised by foreign governments and companies that he allegedly owes over $400 million to, according to reporting by the New York Times on Trump’s tax information.
Trump has not denied that he is in debt by that amount of money, but has not disclosed who he may owe the money to.