It is often said there’s nothing certain in life except death and taxes, but I’d offer a third answer: There’s nothing certain except death, taxes, and the mainstream media connecting bad actors to Republicans.
In this instance, we have a young grifter, John Lambert, who in 2016 founded “Students for Trump” on college campuses across the country. Last month, Lambert was arrested because he had been allegedly impersonating a lawyer online and had been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from people who sought his “legal advice.”
If true, Lambert’s a bad guy. Other people who claim to be Republican can also be bad people. People who claim to be Democrats can also be bad people. Yet when it’s a Republican who does something bad, the whole Party must come under indictment.
Over at Politico, the story of Lambert’s alleged grift is really about President Donald Trump, of course. Trump did not hire this young man, or create him, or tell him to break the law, mind you, but Trump is to blame for this person nonetheless.
“Lambert’s rise to prominence and recent indictment offer a cautionary tale of an ambitious young man caught up in Trump’s allure — a get-rich-quick fantasy of the American dream — who allegedly managed to create his own reality on the internet, only to have the real world come barging in,” Politico’s Ben Schreckinger wrote.
That’s an interesting way to describe Trump. Maybe I only remember Trump as a real-estate mogul and host of “The Apprentice,” so I’m not really sure where the “get-rich-quick” fantasy comes in.
Schreckinger also blamed Lambert’s crime on “the chaos and confusion of Trump’s ramshackle 2016 campaign and the cast of characters who sought fame and fortune by riding in his slipstream.”
Grifters are going to grift. The Republican Party faced this problem in 2010 with the rise of the Tea Party, as people sought money and influence improperly wielding that moniker.
The connection to the Trump campaign is minor. Trump’s friend and neighbor, Guido Lombardi, had created Facebook groups title “[X] for Trump,” and reached out to Lambert and his fellow “Students for Trump” to take over the Facebook page Lombardi already created, according to Politico. A campaign intern made the students administrators on the page. The students also used letterhead bearing the Manhattan address for Trump Tower.
The students claimed they met with Trump and “top campaign officials to discuss what lies ahead for our organization.”
Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, told Politico the 2016 campaign “did not coordinate or affiliate” with Lambert or “Students for Trump” and had sent them a “cease and desist” letter to get them to stop using their letterhead.
Lambert has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Politico notes Lambert faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
We can’t suggest Trump is responsible for every bad actor or lunatic who commits a crime while being a fan of his, just as we can’t blame Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi for bad actors who are fans of theirs.
When Jackson Cosko was arrested for posting the personal information of Republican senators during a hearing with then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it was not Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (who employed him) fault that he did what he did, nor is it Trump’s fault that Lambert swindled people by falsely claiming to be a lawyer.