Donald Trump has set up a retirement GoFundMe. Well, not exactly – he doesn’t call it a retirement GoFundMe, but his “election defense fund”.

Those donating may believe that the money will be used to go towards challenging the election result, but may have missed that their contributions are earmarked for paying off Trump’s re-election debts. It seems to be the latest episode in the Trump team’s comedy of errors.

As Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge the election result by baselessly claiming that Biden’s victory was won through voter fraud, he is also calling on his base for help. Donations can be made to two different funds – Trump’s personal fund, and his joint fund with the RNC.

“President Trump needs YOU to step up to make sure we have the resources to protect the integrity of the election!” the wording on both funds says, which is featured in a huge pop-up on Trump’s re-election webpage. It continues: “Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to the Official Election Defense Fund and to increase your impact by 1,000%!”

It is unclear who matches the donations.

But if you scroll down, past the information about the “Left-wing MOB” trying to “undermine our election”, you’ll see some fine print. On Trump’s personal fund, it dictates that of all donations raised, only 50% will go towards a recount effort, and that “50% of each contribution, up to a maximum of $2,800 ($5,000), [will] be designated toward DJTFP’s 2020 general election account for general election debt retirement until such debt is retired”.

On his joint fund with the RNC, the donations work as follows: “60% of each contribution first to Save America, up to $5,000/$5,000, then to DJTP’s recount account, up to a maximum of $2,800/$5,000. [And] 40% of each contribution to the RNC’s operating account, up to a maximum of $35,500/$15,000.”

This essentially means that depending on the size of your donation, a large portion of any donation won’t go to the “recount” bid but will instead go to the Super Pac sponsoring the bid, and the Republican party.

The bottom line: Trump spent a little more money than he had for his re-election – to the tune of $1.6bn – and now he wants help paying for it. It’s sort of cute, like when a wealthy college student asks if you can sponsor their year abroad petting monkeys in Borneo.

The man who literally left his supporters waiting out in the cold is now passing round the begging bowl in the cold light of day. Some have complained of being repeatedly asked to give donations, receiving as many as 28 messages in a day.

Perhaps we should have some empathy. Trump did, after all, get Covid-19 and then lose his job during a pandemic. Should we be laughing at a man so broke he didn’t make enough money to pay more than $750 in tax for the last two years – and nothing for the 10 to 15 years before that?

But then, let us remember how he dished out self-help advice to ordinary Americans after his Covid diagnosis. “Don’t let it defeat you! We have … some really great drugs and knowledge,” he said at the time, while attempting to slash subsidised healthcare as he simultaneously received a tax-payer funded cocktail of experimental medicines not available to the average American.

(The drugs did seem to work – the president recovered quickly despite being, as one person put it, “in three high-risk categories: elderly, obese and low-income”.)

Anyway. If his supporters want to pledge money to help the man pay off his debts, why not? Love can be many things: blind, tough, profligate. Trump has a rough patch coming up, with a reported $900m in personal debts, on top of his re-election costs. He could always just cash in on his condos, golf courses and towers, of course, which could bring him in about $1bn. But then where would the poor man go to spend his retirement?