Trump a Laughing Stock

Is this how the cult ends?

Former President Donald Trump’s “major announcement” that he was offering $99 NFTs of various images of himself generated lots of reactions, none of them good.

Steven Taylor’s reaction that this was all a grift was almost universal. Kurt Eichenwald dug in and found “Trump’s Trading Card Grift is Worse than You Think.” His report is long but the bottom line is that the deal is wildly sleazy, not just transparently pathetic.

Before we start down the rabbit hole of partnerships, corporations and other entities that lead to criminals and fraudsters, I need to address one question up front: What exactly are buyers of the Trump Trading Cards purchasing? Yes, they are NFTs, but unlike others of these digital art pieces, the people foolish enough to purchase a Trump Trading Card don’t actually own the things they paid for, at least not in the traditional sense. If any buyer decides to sell their Trump card in a secondary market, they don’t get all the proceeds. The fine print reveals that 10% of every secondary market sales goes right back to Trump and his fellow grifters. For more details, buyers are told to click the link to terms and conditions. Buyers have to confirm they read the terms and conditions but…the terms and conditions are nowhere to be found.

[…]

Trump himself is not producing the cards, any more than he has developed any real estate projects since 2010. Instead, he has reached a licensing agreement with a company called NFT International LLC. All his licensing agreements, dating back decades (Real estate, Trump Steaks, Trump University etc.) have all had the same terms: The licensor pays Trump a bunch of cash up front, then he gets a share of the revenue produced by whatever the grifty product is. That number has ranged from 10% to 50%, and there is no reason to expect that this time it is any less – in fact, it is almost certainly more.

So, let’s begin delving into the shady world of NFT International. Start with the simple part: NFT International is licensing Trump’s name and likeness from a company called CIC Digital LLC, a limited liability corporation formed just nine months ago and registered in Delaware. Many corporate entities and partnerships form in Delaware because the state offers unique legal protections that are not as well established in other states: Primarily, privacy is protected. Any business entity filed in Delaware does not have to disclose its officers and directors to the public or the state, which allows for complete anonymity. Even better for Trump, the state allows for a slimmed down corporate structure, where just one person to hold the role of officer, director, and shareholder. Trump has hundreds of LLC’s that were revealed in his financial disclosure when he ran for president, almost all of them created in Delaware and with him as the sole officer, director, and shareholder. If he has created CIC using his standard practice, that means Trump is completely in control of the partnership. This also creates a legal protection for Trump and his companies, because as a partnership, no one filing suit can “pierce the corporate veil” as the term goes, and reach Trump’s pockets or that of his company, the Trump Corporation.

[…]

But the fun really starts with unraveling NFT International. It is spread out all over the place. Anyone who purchases one of the Trump Trading Cards (and perhaps feels like they have been scammed – which they have) would obviously reach out to NFT International through its contact listing on the Collecttrumpcards.com website. The address they will receive is 6300 Sagewood Drive, Suite 427, Park City, UT. But that’s not where NFT International really is. In fact, there are no offices there.

Long story short: it’s a shell company set up for a con man by other con men, many of whom have been sued many times for fraud.

But, of course, Trump being a grifter is hardly news. It’s who he’s been for decades and seems to be part of his appeal. What really strikes me is how nearly universal the mockery of this whole thing as being pathetic has been.

The sleepy old man who kicked his ass in the last election weighed in:

USA Today editorial board members Rex Huppke, Ingrid Jacques and Louie Villalobos mock Trump:

Digital trading cards for people who love losers and losing!

Have you ever wanted to throw $99 in a fire, just to watch it burn?

Well you’re in luck. Former President Donald Trump, a leading candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination (and for federal indictment), made what he called a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” Thursday: He’s selling cartoonish $99 digital trading cards that show him in various states of ludicrousness.

The cards all feature a noticeably trimmer version of Trump, with the exception of his hands, which appear larger than his actual mouse-paw-like mitts. One has the man who somehow was president of the United States of America in superhero regalia with lasers shooting from his eyes. Another shows him wearing a cowboy hat and what looks like military fatigues. And one that should carry a “may spark gag reflex” warning shows him winking.

Trump is clearly playing off the “Dark Brandon” superhero meme liberals have used to joke about President Joe Biden’s successes. But Biden’s team didn’t create that meme, and they certainly didn’t try to monetize it.

Gizmodo’s Kyle Barr notes “Trump’s Badly Photoshopped NFTs Appear to Use Photos From Small Clothing Brands.”

On Thursday the grand surprise was finally revealed and it was nothing but another horrific NFT project that, in Trump’s words, featured “amazing ART of my Life & Career!” These “digital trading cards” are indeed just another cash grab NFT project, but the low quality images and the company in charge of the project are a more complicated enigma.

Each NFT sells for a total $99, and some are limited as single copies, while other NFTs are available in two, five, seven, or 10 copies. There are a total of 45,000 cards in the initial release, but even more, one big fan of Mr. Trump will be “guaranteed” a ticket to some future gala dinner with him, ostensibly at his Mar a Lago residence in South Florida. The auction even promised to pay for transportation. So yes, spend $4,455 and you too can have a sit down with the former president himself. Although we can guarantee you he will not look nearly as slim as he does in these trading cards.

The images were so lazy that based on reverse image searches they were edited photos scraped off the internet. It’s unclear if they were edited by hand or perhaps crafted using AI image generation, though the one image of Trump in hunter garb bears a very distinct resemblance to waders crafted by Banded, a hunting apparel company.

Trump’s cowboy outfit appears to match a leather duster made by Scully Sportswear, a California-based costume and western garb shop.

Gizmodo reached out to both companies to see if they had had any agreement with the NFT project to seemingly use their products, but we did not immediately hear back.

The whole thing is bizarre in so many different ways. In a video featuring Trump promoting the project, Trump claims he’s “better than [Abraham] Lincoln, better than [George] Washington.” He then says “each card comes with an automatic chance to win amazing prizes like dinner with me. I don’t know if that’s an amazing prize but it’s what we have.”

NYT (“Trump Sells a New Image as the Hero of $99 Trading Cards“):

Donald J. Trump’s political opponents have long criticized him as something of a cartoon character. On Thursday, the former president made himself into one — but with the aim of turning a profit.

The Guardian (“‘Losing the plot’: Trump mocked after announcing superhero card collection“):

Donald Trump walked into a comic-book universe of internet mockery on Thursday, when in a carefully trailed announcement he introduced his “official Donald Trump Digital Trading Card” collection with a picture of himself in superhero costume, cape and “Trump Champion” belt.

The Independent (“Trump ridiculed for ‘major announcement’ that he’s selling digital trading cards“):

Former President Donald Trump is being mocked over his “major announcement” that he’s selling digital trading cards featuring himself depicted as a superhero, among other characters.

The Independent (“‘Has Trump lost his mind’: MAGA supporters blast ‘major’ trading cards announcement“):

Supporters of Donald Trump appear to be souring on the former president as his “major announcement” that he’s selling digital trading cards flops within parts of the MAGA movement.

In a video announcement of the trading cards, Mr Trump said he was “hopefully your favourite president of all time – better than Lincoln, better than Washington”.

“I’m doing my first official Donald J Trump NFT collection right here and right now. They’re called Trump digital trading cards,” Mr Trump said, adding that the cards would feature “really incredible artwork pertaining to my life and my career. It’s been very exciting. You can collect your Trump digital cards, just like a baseball card, or other collectables”.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro sarcastically tweeted: “Thank God, the digital trading cards are here. It was indeed a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT.”

Washington Examiner (“Trump reveals ‘major announcement’: Digital trading cards worth $99“):

Former President Donald Trump’s teased “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” turned out to be a new Donald Trump Digital Trading Card collection.

The former president made the revelation on Truth Social on Thursday, noting that the cards will cost $99 each. Portraying himself as one of the multitudes of billionaire superheroes that dominate comic book lore, Trump touted the digital cards as a way to make Christmas “great.”

A promotional graphic showed a deeply muscular and toned Trump donning a red outfit laced with the number 45, a nod to his presidency, with a stoic look on his face and an American flag-styled cape draped behind him.

[…]

Trump had been the favorite for a Republican primary heading into the 2024 presidential fray, but his campaign debut was overshadowed by an abysmal GOP midterm outing that stunned the Beltway and prompted a handful of prominent Republicans to fret openly about him becoming the party standard-bearer again.

Recent polls show him trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in a hypothetical primary matchup. DeSantis has not divulged whether he plans to vie for the presidency in 2024.

HuffPo (“Even Steve Bannon Thinks Trump’s NFT Announcement Is Lame“):

It’s probably no surprise that Donald Trump is being heavily mocked after promising a “major announcement” on Wednesday that was just a sales pitch for a line of “digital trading cards,” or NFTs, featuring his likeness.

However, this time, the criticism is also coming from known supporters of the former president, including Steve Bannon.

[…]

The former White House chief strategist wasn’t impressed by Trump’s latest business opportunity for his followers based on comments he made on his “War Room” show.

In fact, it seems like Trump’s NFT announcement may have been the straw that broke Bannon’s back because he said, frankly, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Bannon thought heads should roll for getting what he called “one of the greatest presidents in history” involved with the NFTs.

“I gotta tell you: whoever–what business partner and anybody on the comms team and anybody at Mar-a-Lago – and I love the folks down there – but we’re at war. They oughta be fired today,” he said.

Fox News (“Trump roasted after ‘major announcement’ turns out to be digital trading cards“):

Former President Donald Trump was mocked across social media Thursday after hyping up a “major announcement” that turned out to be digital trading cars with his face superimposed onto them.

[…]

The announcement prompted dismay and laughter on social media almost immediately, with Trump fans and critics alike poking fun at the former president.

I’ve purposefully omitted the commentary at MSNBC, various other left-leaning outlets, and the late-night comics. Their disdain for Trump is hardly news at this point. But the near-universality of the mockery is surprising, given his strong hold on such a huge chunk of the Republican base.

My personal favorite:

The far-right internet personality known as “Baked Alaska” was less than pleased with former President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday that he’s launching a series of digital trading card NFTs.

“i can’t believe i’m going to jail for an nft salesman,” Baked Alaska, whose real name is Anthime Gionet, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Gionet participated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and later pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. The charge carries a sentence of up to six months, and Gionet’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 12.

[…]

Gionet, who livestreamed himself storming the Capitol on January 6, didn’t mince words when reacting to Trump’s announcement.

“i wanted to make america great again but all i got was this shitty nft,” he tweeted.

When even this moron sees through the scheme, you know it’s, well, half-baked.

I sincerely hope that this is how it all comes crashing down: the MAGA hero reduced to a subject of ridicule.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Rick DeMent says:

    Is it me or do some of the images where he is wearing sunglasses look more like Joe Biden then Trump? I mean he looks a lot thinner in the images than in real life 🙂

    2
  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This kind of derision is kryptonite to malignant narcissists.
    That sound you hear is Trump’s base shrinking.

    1
  3. MarkedMan says:

    There is no shortage of people who want to associate themselves with a tough guy, no matter how debased. But there are very few who want to associate with a fool. If Trump can’t shake this stink off, he’s done.

    1
  4. Scott F. says:

    I sincerely hope that this is how it all comes crashing down: the MAGA hero reduced to a subject of ridicule.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I fear Trump revealing himself as a joke to his ardent fans depoliticizes his downfall. The story becomes personal and for many Trump will be a tragic figure who would garner sympathy.

    I want (maybe even need) Trump’s fall to take significant numbers of his GOP enablers with him, so imprisonment for seditious conspiracy or theft of secret documents remain my scenarios of choice. If you want the catharsis the Greek dramatists were going for, you’ve got end the play with the Orange Man in an orange jumpsuit.

    3
  5. Mu says:

    $99 per card, I thought at that price you’d get the deck. Now that’s a true artform of grift.

    1
  6. steve says:

    This might have some minor effects at the margin. People who dont like him will have great fun with this. His fans at best wont care and some of them will love it and buy them. They will be prized along with the Trump coins and Trump coffee table book. Remember that the book grossed over $20 million in the first 2 months. Some of his fans will take offense at all of the snark over this and buy them just to spite everyone. It’s a true cult. When the space aliens dont arrive on October 1st you just change the date and the cult members accept it.

    Steve

    6
  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I have seen some speculation that this is a way for foreign entities (hi there Saudi Arabia!) to get around elections laws on donations. I can see Trump thinking that’s true and going for it. Also: I think we know what Putin is sending out at Christmas to his closest associates!

    1
  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    Except for the fact you would be lining trump’s pocket, any one of these would make a great White Elephant xmas gift at a Yankee Swap.

    1
  9. CSK says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    It’s not just you. I had the same reaction.

    1
  10. Kathy says:

    Once again I feel compelled to point out there is no such thing as eye sanitizer.

    In any case, it would be the brain, where the images are perceived, that needs to be cleansed. I suggest looking at images of attractive people, beautiful cities or natural settings, or something/someone you find inspirational or awe-inspiring.

    Or pictures of dogs or cats.

  11. CSK says:

    The company that licensed Trump’s image, CIC Ventures, was founded in 2021 by a past Trump advisor and a current Trump lawyer, John Marion.

    Its address is…The Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

    2
  12. CSK says:

    @CSK:

    CIC Ventures…Commander-in-Chief Ventures?

    2
  13. Kari Q says:

    I just saw a headline claiming the cards are already sold out, for whatever that’s worth.

    1
  14. Kathy says:

    @Kari Q:

    It’s easy to accomplish that with one simple trick. Namely the Homer Simpson Sure-FIre, Money-Making Grease trick:

    Homer: Seventy five cents of pure profit!
    Bart: But that bacon cost $5
    Homer: But your mother paid for it.
    Bart: Doesn’t mom get her money from you?
    Homer: And I get my money from selling grease! What’s your point?

    2
  15. CSK says:
  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    Is this how the cult ends?

    Not with a bang, or a whimper, but a sneer.

    1
  17. al Ameda says:

    @Kari Q:

    I just saw a headline claiming the cards are already sold out, for whatever that’s worth

    I think it’s worth at least as much as my FTX holdings.

    1
  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kari Q: By my calculations, it makes $4,455,000. Seems like a lot, but as grifts and corruption go, it’s about on par with the Snohomish County, WA, Sheriff Detective receiving roughly $2000 over a 20-year period in payoffs from a cocaine enterprise, measuring by the comparative scale of the operation. Televangelists do better than this on prayer handkerchiefs. 🙁

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Donald J. Trump–Graft and corruption at discount prices?

    I guess it could work. Everyone likes a bargain.

    1
  20. Kathy says:

    What I’d like to see, and even pay $5 to see it, is an indictment with Benito’s name.

    That will probably be available for free, though.

  21. ptfe says:

    I thought at first this was an amazing flush-the-turd op by an anti-Trump person/group that could offer him a way out of one of his myriad financial jams and scams. Turns out it’s Trump all the way down, and he genuinely thinks he can get a few takers charging $99 a head at his shit sandwich buffet.

    70% chance this is a way to take in personal investments from abroad, 90% chance he’s doing something illegal. (The real question is, why would any foreign actor want to invest in him at this point?)

    2
  22. Jen says:

    Business Insider is reporting that these stupid as all get-out trading cards have sold out, netting Trump $1 million.

    1
  23. dazedandconfused says:

    My gut tells me this guy doesn’t actually want to be POTUS again, subliminally or otherwise.

    3
  24. Hal_10000 says:

    The base will not care. He could run campaign ads that consist of nothing but Trump smeared in feces strangling puppies and he would still win the GOP nomination.

    2
  25. senyordave says:

    @Hal_10000: Trump smeared in feces strangling puppies Now there is an image for the ages. Maybe you can create NFT cards with those images as satire. I’d buy them.

    1
  26. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    They had sold out by around two this morning. Demented.

    2
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: Hold on! The gross is over $5 million (inc. S&H) and he’s getting less than a quarter of it? That’s not even up to Sno. Co. Sheriff Detective graft standards. Yikes! This isn’t even at the standard of “always wanting to f**k people over so hard that he ends up leaving money on the table”-level incompetent. That’s so sad. Bigly.

    2
  28. CSK says:

    Well, Trump finally got around to disavowing Nick Fuentes in an interview with Breitbart News.

    Only five weeks too late.

  29. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    He may think the images are classy and flattering.

    No, really. I’m serious.

    @CSK:

    Oh, it will take him far less time to walk it back.