Board meeting.

Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg

It's Official: I'm a Big League Trump Supporter

Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website
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In recent months, Donald J. Trump, his family and staff have been among my most frequent correspondents. Their messages have clogged my mailbox. They've been asking me for money, selling me stuff, complaining about the liberal media and venting their anger at Hillary Clinton.

I've only seen the Trumps from a distance, while reporting on the primary campaign earlier this year. That's probably how I got on their mailing list. I didn't sign up for some of the events as a member of the press. Instead, I used the Eventbrite app to register for some of Trump's early rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire as a member of the general public so I could stand in line and get a sense of who else would show up. I did the same with other candidates, but, apart from the Trumps, only Marco Rubio, who is now running for senator in Florida, has been a loyal correspondent with increasingly desperate messages about missing fundraising goals.

I can't say for sure that's how the Trumps came to consider me a Big League Supporter. Which they do: I've received several e-mails from Kellyanne Conway, who runs the Trump campaign, that began: "I am honored to serve as Mr. Trump’s campaign manager. Yesterday I asked him to give me a list of our strongest supporters. Your name showed up on the list as a Big League Supporter." I wrote back to ask how this happened, but nobody answered.

I thought that was a bit of a comedown after a series of messages from Trump's daughter, Ivanka, asking if I was free for coffee with her. Eric Trump, the younger son, suggested lunch. The presidential candidate himself asked me out for dinner. There was a catch, though: I had to donate $3 for a chance to do lunch with Eric or have coffee with Ivanka, and $5 for a chance at facetime with Donald.

Don't think I didn't try. But the Trump website wouldn't accept my foreign credit card. Come to think of it, I'd be breaking the law by paying and they'd be breaking it by taking my money: I am a Russian citizen, prohibited from contributing to U.S. campaigns. Besides, the Clinton camp and many of my colleagues are looking hard for a Russian trail in the Trump campaign, and there it would be for everyone to see -- my $3 contribution for a chance at coffee with Ivanka. They'd have to issue all kinds of denials.

With that in mind, I had to pass up several other tempting opportunities -- to become a Trump Sustaining Partner, an executive member ("You’ve done a lot for our campaign, and you deserve to be rewarded," Trump wrote, asking me for $35) or even a member of the Trump Board of Directors. It was easy to pass up the first two offers because nobody told me what benefits the titles carried. I felt a pang of regret, though, about missing the board appointment: I would have received a serious-looking membership certificate to put on my wall.

Also, Donald Trump explained in the e-mail:

I rely on the Trump Board of Directors to give me important campaign guidance and advice. Once you take your spot within the Board, you are sort of my “eyes and ears” in your area.

I know I would have had fun as Trump's eyes and ears in Berlin, Germany, where I live, as long as I kept my mouth shut about it. But then Trump sent me another e-mail, saying he'd take my advice, anyway: "The politicians and liberal elites have not been listening to you. But I hear you loud and clear."

This particular e-mail showed me that Trump assumed I belonged to "the great silent majority of Americans," but he didn't want me to remain silent much longer. "The media are in her corner too, and frankly I don’t think I’ve seen the media in this country behave in such a disgusting way as they have against me," he wrote. "So many lies! So help me cut through the media nonsense and take our message right to the people."

It's my job to cut through nonsense and I'm happy to help, but, frankly (a word Trump uses as frequently in his e-mails as when he speaks), I doubt Trump really wants my input. After all, Conway did write in one of her messages to me: "I don’t have to tell you -- the mainstream media is always going to try to distort our message."

So pretty much all I could do to help Donald and his family make America great again was to buy stuff they were selling, like a $20 "I heart Trump" mug, a $25 "Make America Great Again" cap or a $184 signed copy of Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal." But I'd already bought a cap at one of the rallies, and I only paid $20. And I've read that Trump didn't write the book and the guy who did is now unhappy about it, so there's no point in getting it -- with the wrong autograph, at any rate.

I doubt the Trump family will stop writing me or counting me among their supporters after seeing this column. So I'm just wondering how much this hard sell is helping Trump with his real supporters, big league and otherwise. Perhaps they understand. But many of them are angry people, and if I were them, the crudeness and the sheer frequency of the pitches would have made me even angrier -- and not in the way Trump would appreciate.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Leonid Bershidsky at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at