President Trump has headlined four big rallies in the first months of his presidency to tout his agenda and savage his foes. A new $1.5 million television ad campaign promotes his accomplishments and attacks the media. The flurry of activity to build support for Trump’s policies isn’t organized by the White House but springs from his re-election campaign, which filed paperwork allowing him to begin raising and spending money on Jan. 20 — the same day he took the oath of office. By contrast, both President Obama and President George W. Bush had been in office for more than two years before they filed for re-election. Traditionally, presidents use federal money to push their policies and refrain from overtly political activity until later in their terms. But Trump’s unorthodox move to immediately start fundraising allows him to capitalize on federal election laws to push his agenda in new ways. He can rally his supporters, openly denounce his political enemies and pressure recalcitrant lawmakers in Congress — all without running afoul of rules that bar using taxpayer money for politics.
Trump’s perpetual campaign operation is another sign of the ways the billionaire president is upending political norms.
“I don’t think it should surprise anyone that he’s continuing to break the mold and come up with new and innovative ways to exercise the power of the presidency and run for re-election,” said Michael Glassner, a longtime campaign aide whom Trump tapped to serve as executive director of the re-election effort. “It’s a continuation of his reinvention of the American political system.”
Campaign finance experts say operating as a candidate gives Trump the legal freedom to act in ways that he can’t as president.