Trump Spending Millions in Donor Cash on Attorneys as Legal Woes Grow

Trump Spending Millions in Donor Cash on Attorneys as Legal Woes Grow – Donald Trump’s formidable political fundraising channel is rapidly collecting donations, yet a significant portion of these funds is being directed toward covering legal expenses associated with the growing number of criminal cases he faces while advancing into the 2024 presidential campaign. 

Campaign finance experts argue that using these contributions to pay for attorneys in cases unrelated to the campaign or official duties seems to clash with federal regulations prohibiting the personal use of donor funds, even though the Federal Election Commission has determined that this prohibition doesn’t apply to what are known as leadership political action committees (PACs). 

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The substantial sums allocated to legal matters highlight Trump’s pressing need to raise money for both his campaign and legal defense, as he contends with multiple legal challenges. According to Federal Election Commission records, Trump’s Save America PAC has disbursed nearly $37 million to over 60 law firms and individual attorneys since January 2022. 

This amounts to more than half of the PAC’s overall expenditures, based on an analysis of campaign finance reports conducted by the Associated Press. In the first half of 2023, Save America spent over $20 million on legal-related expenses, surpassing the combined spending of the Republican National Committee, Democratic National Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee during the same period.

The majority of these PAC funds were directed to law firms that have represented Trump in criminal cases and civil lawsuits. Furthermore, other attorneys paid with these contributions have worked on behalf of Trump’s businesses, his children, former White House aides, and individuals who worked for the former president. 

The practice of covering legal costs for co-defendants and potential witnesses raises complex ethical questions, including concerns about the loyalty of the attorneys to Trump versus their loyalty to their clients and the potential impact on clients’ willingness to disclose information. “The way these cases get built is you persuade the little fish to testify against the big fish,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and criminal law professor at George Washington University Law School. 

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Donald Trump’s unique position as the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, his simultaneous pursuit of another presidential term while defending himself in numerous legal battles, and the substantial influx of donor funds directed towards legal expenses represent an unparalleled combination in American history. 

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Trump vehemently denies any wrongdoing, and he and his allies have criticized the extensive list of felony charges and lawsuits as politically motivated attacks aimed at derailing his 2024 campaign. Interestingly, the legal peril he faces has become a potent tool for fundraising. Trump’s assertion that he is a victim of a corrupt justice system intent on silencing him and his supporters is a central pillar of his campaign platform. 

He has effectively transformed courthouses into campaign stages, using them to amplify this message and energize his supporters. For example, during his civil fraud trial in New York, Trump leveraged the intense media coverage as a platform to communicate his views. Facing the courthouse cameras, he characterized the case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James as a witch hunt and a disgrace.

In this case, Trump and his company are accused of inflating the value of his real estate holdings to deceive financial institutions and insurers. Moreover, Trump turned his legal situation in Georgia, where he faced charges related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, into a significant fundraising opportunity. 

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His presidential campaign reported selling approximately 47,000 T-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters featuring his mug shot from his August booking at Fulton County Jail. In the days following the release of the photo, the campaign claimed to have raised $9.4 million. Notably, these funds are designated for political and campaign activities, rather than legal expenses, according to the campaign. 

To cover the legal fees, Trump’s political operation has also transferred millions of dollars from his super PAC, MAGA Inc. Apart from the New York business fraud lawsuit and the Georgia election case, Trump is confronting federal felony charges stemming from the Mar-a-Lago records case in Florida and the 2020 election subversion case in Washington, D.C.

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