Trump 'livid' after report former campaign aide misled on fundraising

Group run by former Trump deputy campaign manager

By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Sarah Westwood, CNN
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(CNN) - President Donald Trump directed his reelection campaign to issue a blistering statement implicitly condemning a longtime political adviser who used Trump's name to raise millions of dollars for an unaffiliated political group, several people familiar with the President's reaction said.

The President was "livid" when he found out the political group run by his former deputy campaign manager David Bossie was soliciting funds from Trump supporters and only spending a fraction on direct political activities. The statement did not directly call out Bossie, but condemned "any organization that deceptively uses the President's name, likeness, trademarks or branding and confuses voters," just two days after a report focused on Bossie's group.

"The President's pissed off," one source close to the campaign told CNN.

The campaign's repudiation came on the same day that Trump's top campaign aides had organized a meeting at the President's Washington hotel to encourage potential fundraisers to join a new bundling program.

"There is no excuse for any group, including ones run by people who claim to be part of our 'coalition,' to suggest they directly support President Trump's reelection or any other candidates, when in fact their actions show they are interested in filling their own pockets with money from innocent Americans' paychecks, and sadly, retirements," the campaign said in a statement that was not attributed to any one official.

Bossie did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

The statement condemning Bossie's practices -- though not naming him -- was in development since Monday.

It comes after Axios, in conjunction with Campaign Legal Center, reported Sunday that Bossie's group raised $18.5 million between 2017 and 2018, promising donors that the group was "dedicated to identifying and supporting conservative candidates running for office at the state and local levels of government."

But, according to the report, of the $15.4 million that the Presidential Coalition spent during that period, only 3% was spent on candidates, political committees or state and local ads supporting said candidates.

The analysis by the Campaign Legal Center and Axios found that most of the money raised by Bossie's group, called the Presidential Coalition, went to more fundraising, largely direct mail and telemarketing. Nearly $660,000 went to two organizations also run by Bossie, Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation. The payments included a salary for Bossie himself, according to the Campaign Legal Center's review of IRS records.

Sources told CNN that Trump felt that one of his first political advisers was tricking people, some of them elderly, into thinking they were directly supporting his campaign -- and he was infuriated by the news. The move stirred up campaign officials as well, because that was money they could have raised for Trump's reelection effort.

People close to Trump also said he does not like when people are perceived as profiting off their association with him.

The President has continued to stew about the story since Sunday, sources said. The campaign had been told Friday that Axios and Campaign Legal Center were going to report on Bossie's behavior. And he grew more infuriated after the outlet reached out to some of the donors who said they felt fooled and insulted when they found out how the group was spending its money when they thought it was supporting Trump.

Bossie is a current Fox News contributor who flew with the President on Air Force One in March to a rally in Michigan. He is not officially involved with the President's reelection effort but is considered a surrogate.

A source told CNN it's unclear what Bossie's longer term fate in the President's orbit will be and whether there is a path for him to make it right with Trump.

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