Sep 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

How Trump's loyal pen pals spread his message

Collection of Trump's handwritten notes compiled by Axios

Screenshots: Axios Visuals

Each day, former President Trump's staff presents him with a stack of mostly supportive letters, op-eds and printouts of tweets. They're meant to keep him informed — but perhaps just as important, to boost his spirits.

  • Trump, signature black Sharpie in hand, often scrawls responses on them and has his aides text a photo of the comments back to the writers. The Trump-signed hard copies are sent back by U.S. mail.

Why it matters: It's an ego-soothing exercise for Trump that winds up creating a series of viral threads, as recipients of Trump's comments — some of whom are essentially pen pals with large digital followings — post them on social media.

  • For Trump — whose online rants against critics, prosecutors and judges are escalating as the four felony cases against him proceed — the virality of such personal notes provides a constant chain of support, commiseration and shared anger.

Zoom in: Paul Ingrassia, a former Trump White House intern, says he's received more than a dozen notes from Trump since October in response to supportive articles Ingrassia wrote for conservative outlets.

  • After he wrote Trump recently to flag an article "you may have overlooked," Trump wrote back: "Never! Just posted" — Trump had reposted Ingrassia's piece on Truth Social.
  • Recalling a visit Ingrassia had made to the former president's golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump added: "Great seeing you — the man behind the great writing — you are looking good."
  • Like many of Trump's pen pals, Ingrassia posts the former president's replies on his own social media accounts. He says Trump's handwritten notes, which he's framing, encourage him to keep writing articles.

Trump's circle of flattery includes allies across the country who flag their own work, tweets, messages or video of their TV appearances to Trump aide Natalie Harp, senior adviser Jason Miller, communications director Steven Cheung and others, two people familiar with the process tell Axios.

  • Material deemed significant enough for Trump's eyes is printed out aboard Trump's jet or at one of his clubs to be presented to him.

One ally whose messages typically reach Trump is Laura Loomer, a far-right activist who narrowly lost a bid for the U.S. House last year in the district that includes Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

  • "If [Trump] had people in his first term who were as loyal as I am, he wouldn't have a lot of the issues" he has now, Loomer wrote to the former president's staff recently, adding that she would "sniff out" the "traitors" to Trump.
  • "Laura, I hear you!" Trump responded in bold letters on a printout of her message.
  • "Sounds good to me," he added beside Loomer's line about traitors.
  • His reply was signed "Donald," in Trump's large, jagged signature.

Trump recently praised Garrett Ventry, a GOP strategist and former congressional aide who frequently goes to bat for him on Fox News, for a TV appearance after Trump was indicted on charges of withholding classified documents.

  • "Thank you Garrett, great job," Trump wrote on printout of a text message from Ventry to a Trump aides.
  • "It's a great pat on the back and it's smart because it really doesn't take him that much time," Ventry said.

Between the lines: Trump's handwritten responses have come to be coveted by young Republicans who haven't gotten a response.

  • "How do I get one?" other young conservative influencers wrote to a Trump aide after a 17-year-old podcaster who goes by "GOP Josh" posted a reply from Trump on his social media account.

On the other hand: Trump's notes also can be a lot like his dismissive, insulting posts on social media — particularly when his staff prints out a critical story for him to see.

  • Journalists are a favorite target, but Trump's shots don't always involve politics — sometimes they have the ring of a status-conscious New Yorker.
  • Emily Smith, former editorial director for the New York Post's Page Six, posted a photo of a handwritten note she got from Trump last year about a story she'd written about him being snubbed from a wedding invitation.
  • "Fake news," Trump wrote on top of a printed copy of the newspaper. "Not interested in going, never would have gone ... just a made up PR hit job."
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