WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump ‘s mounting legal woes are growing more expensive, leading his political operation to shell out tens of millions of dollars for attorneys’ fees, request a large refund from a supportive super PAC and launch a new legal defense fund.
Since the beginning of this year, Save America, Trump’s political action committee, has spent more than $40 million on legal fees for costs related to defending the former president, his aides and other allies, according to a person familiar with the spending who spoke on the condition of anonymity before Monday’s campaign finance reporting deadline. The group also received a $12.2 million “refund” from Make America Great Again Inc., a pro-Trump super PAC that it had previously donated money to, records show. The legal spending figure was first reported by The Washington Post.
At the same time, Trump’s allies are creating a new legal defense fund that will help pay the soaring legal fees as Trump faces dozens of criminal charges stemming from indictments in New York and Florida, with more expected as soon as this week. The Patriot Legal Defense Fund, as it is called, is intended to raise money to defray costs for those “defending against legal actions arising from an individual or group’s participation in the political process,” according to a filing made last month with the IRS. The group will be run by Trump campaign senior advisers Susie Wiles and Michael Glassner.
“The weaponized Department of Justice and the deranged Jack Smith have targeted innocent Americans associated with President Trump,” said Trump spokesman Steven Cheung. “In order to combat these heinous actions by Joe Biden’s cronies and to protect these innocent people from financial ruin and prevent their lives from being completely destroyed, a new legal defense fund will help pay for their legal fees.” The fund was first reported by The New York Times.
Smith is the special counsel leading the federal investigations of Trump. His team has expressed interest in the payment of legal fees for Trump-aligned witnesses in the investigations and has sought information about it, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss ongoing criminal probes.
Trump’s PAC has also requested that his super PAC, MAGA Inc., return some of the money that it transferred to seed the group to help cover costs. It is unclear whether money was actually transferred or how much.
A spokesman for the super PAC did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump launched his PAC, Save America, in the days after the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden. For weeks, the group bombarded supporters with a nonstop stream of text messages and emails that purported to raise money for an “election defense fund” that would be used to contest the election’s outcome.
But the $170 million that the effort raised in less than a month was not used to contest the election, records show. Instead, it was used to pay down campaign debt and replenish the coffers of the Republican National Committee, with Trump also stockpiling another large chunk for his future political endeavors. Last year, the Justice Department issued a round of grand jury subpoenas that sought information about the political action committee’s fundraising practices.
Since then, Save America has served as a different sort of “defense fund,” covering the legal expenses for Trump operatives, allies and employees who have been ensnared in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation.
Some of Save America’s money has been used to boost other candidates, though it’s a pittance compared to how much Trump has spent on ballooning legal costs.
As the 2022 midterm elections approached, Trump pledged to back congressional candidates loyal to him. But of the roughly $65 million earmarked by Save America for political spending, less than a third — about $20 million — was used to back midterm candidates through campaign contributions or paid advertising.
“Forty million dollars — I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Paul S. Ryan, a longtime campaign finance attorney in Washington, referring to the sum the group spent on legal fees this year. “There’s no legal issue. It’s really just a question for his donors: Do they want to be funding lawyers?”
Colvin reported from New York.