I remember well the day this all began. The rain was slanting through the gray air and drops were plinking against my office window. I was sitting at my computer, checking my email, when I noticed I had a new message. I opened it and saw that it had been typed in sporadic red and blue fonts, like someone had clipped each letter out of a magazine.
‘Don’t let President Trump think he’s lost your support,’ it read. ‘He has EXTENDED your PERSONAL 500%-MATCH DEADLINE FOR 1 MORE HOUR… This is your last chance.’
I sat back in my chair and exhaled a cloud of cigarette smoke. I had been receiving Donald Trump’s fundraising emails for years and certainly the language had always been insistent. But this was a new level of aggression altogether. My last chance, I thought. My last chance before what?
Suddenly there was a loud bang. I looked up, and through the window, I saw a man dangling from a rappel line, holding a squeegee, wearing a MAGA hat. He pointed at me menacingly and I ran out of the room.
My wife and I installed a home security system after that. But then the deadline passed without further word from the Trump team. And as the days turned into weeks, I forgot all about my final opportunity to impoverish myself by upping my political donations by a factor of five in exchange for free Trump commemorative coasters.
Then one day another email arrived, same colors, same fonts. This one bore the signature of one Kimberly Guilfoyle. She warned me that she had just noticed I wasn’t on something called the Trump Presidential Honor Roll. She pleaded with me to sign up before it was too late: ‘I know President Trump will ask me about you and I’ll have to tell him the truth.’ After what seemed like a pregnant pause, she added, ‘Make sure your name is on that roster.’
Who was this Kimberly Guilfoyle? Why did she have to tell Trump the truth? Was her message a cry for help? But then why didn’t she actually cry for help? Maybe she wasn’t very good at yelling. And why was she taking such a risk to warn me?
I placed two cigarettes in my mouth and lit them. That was when, up ahead, I thought I saw something move. As misfortune would have it, I was at that very moment walking through the city on a moonless night past the old boarded-up Trump building while steam rose sinuously out of a nearby manhole. I strained my eyes in the dark, trying to see. And then I could have sworn I glimpsed a figure in a trench coat and a red baseball cap emerge out of an alley and dash across the street. I turned around and walked away as quickly as I could.
The next night, my phone rang while I was in bed. ‘Hello?’ I answered. The clock on the nightstand read 2:24 a.m. On the other end, I heard heavy breathing. ‘Who is this?!’ I demanded. The breathing grew louder before thickening into a wheeze and devolving into a coughing fit.
‘Trump!’ gagged a voice. ‘Trumpppp!’
‘Chris Christie,’ I exhaled with relief. ‘Thank God it’s just you.’
‘Hi, Matt. How you doin’?’ he said.
‘I’m OK. They got you cold-calling for Trump again?’
‘Gov, let me ask you something. I’ve been getting these threatening emails from the Trump fundraising team. Do you know anything about that?’
There was a long pause.
‘Those guys,’ said Christie slowly, ‘they don’t mess around.’ He paused again. ‘You want my advice, Matt? Give them what they want. Don’t be a hero.’
‘Gov?’ I said. But the line had gone dead.
The next day, another email informed me that my 2021 Trump Life Membership was now inactive. ‘What happened?’ it asked. ‘We thought you were a patriot who always had President Trump’s and the Republican Party’s back… Has that changed, Friend?’
I couldn’t allow this to go on. I decided to go to the public library and search in the newspaper archive. Sitting at the microfiche machine, I found several articles reporting on the terror that the Trump emails had caused in various lakeside small towns where nothing usually ever happens. Someone had even created a Twitter account documenting these fundraising letters, complete with names and dates.
I raised a length of PVC pipe that I’d filled with tobacco to my lips, took a puff and began to cycle through the tweets, the machine clicking as I went. I was so absorbed that I didn’t notice when the beams from a pair of headlights slid across the library as a black car pulled up outside.
‘He’s over there,’ I heard the librarian say, and panic flooded through me. I stood up and ran for the fire escape. Rushing down the stairs, I silently cursed my editor, Morgan Freeman wearing suspenders, for not renewing our LexisNexis subscription.
The next email was signed by Donald Trump himself. He informed me that he had reactivated my ‘impact offer’ and warned that in 30 minutes he was ‘going to review a list of EVERY Patriot who donated to this email’.
‘I hope I see your name,’ he intoned.
Such is the constant state of fear I now euphemistically call my life. I walked home that night, glancing warily at every shadow, thinking that people who give small amounts to political campaigns are generally decent sorts and deserve better than to be bullied by a team of tinpot PR henchmen leaning on the caps lock.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s September 2021 World edition.