Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., on Oct. 8, 2022. (Bridget Bennett/The New York Times)
Two people who know about the situation say that the political action committee that former President Donald Trump is using to pay his legal bills had such huge costs this year that it asked for a refund on a $60 million donation it made to another group that supports the Republican front-runner.
Trump could have a money problem because he hasn’t paid his huge bills directly and hasn’t set up a legal defense fund for himself or others who have been caught up in the investigations into him.
It comes when Trump is running for president while being charged in two places and could be charged in a third soon. He is also paying the legal fees of witnesses who are close to or work for him.
But the refund was requested because Trump and witnesses in legal cases involving him cost the PAC, Save America, more than $40 million in legal fees this year alone, according to another person with knowledge of the situation.
The numbers will be included in a filing Save America will make with the Federal Election Commission on Monday night.
Over the past two years, Save America spent $16 million on legal fees. This extra $40 million was on top of that. Since then, Trump has been indicted twice, grown his legal team, and hired his two co-defendants in the case about his keeping classified information. The total amount spent on legal matters is about $56 million.
The Washington Post first said that the amount was $40 million.
Trump put the more than $100 million he got from small donations after losing the 2020 election in a group called a political action committee, or PAC. Trump said he needed the help to fight the widespread cheating in the election. No evidence of widespread fraud was found by officials, some of whom worked on his campaign.
Trump spent some of that $100 million on other politicians and political activities in 2022. He also used it to pay more than $16 million in legal fees, most related to investigations into him, and at least $10 million for his fees.
Save America only had $18 million in cash at the beginning of 2023, less than half of what they spent on legal bills this year.
Experts in campaign finance disagree on whether or not Trump can still use the PAC to pay his legal bills now that he is running for office.
Trump has been telling his friends and business partners for a long time that lawyers and other people who work for him should do it for free because they get free publicity. And, according to people who have heard him say it, he has told more than one person that people guilty of crimes are the only ones who set up defense funds.
This year, Trump started putting more of every dollar he raised online away from his campaign and into his PAC, which he uses to pay for his lawyers. At the start of the 2024 campaign, Trump had spent 99 cents of every dollar raised online on his campaign. But he changed the formula so that now he only gives 90 cents to the campaign and 10 cents to the PAC, which has been a legal fund in practice.
Some of his competitors were very angry about the move. In a CNN interview in June, the former governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, said it was “disgraceful.”
Christie said, “He goes to middle-class men and women in this country, and they give him $15, $25, $50, or $100 because they like Donald Trump and want him to be president again.” “They aren’t giving him that money so that he can pay his legal bills.”
Still, the extra money taken away from Trump’s campaign couldn’t even begin to cover the high legal fees he and his supporters had to pay. And any money the super PAC gave back to the political action committee to pay for legal bills would, in theory, mean that less money would be spent to help Trump’s campaign.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, would not say anything about the request for a refund. But when it came to how much money was spent on lawyers overall, he said, “The Department of Justice has kept going after innocent Americans because they worked for President Trump, and they know they don’t have a good case.”
He called the lawsuits against Trump and his supporters “heinous actions by Joe Biden’s cronies” and said that the PAC had helped pay for the legal costs to “protect these innocent people from financial ruin and keep their lives from being destroyed.”
When asked for comment, a super PAC spokesperson didn’t answer immediately.
Trump, a wealthy businessman, and celebrity, said at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Saturday that he would spend his own money on his campaign if he had to, even though his political action committee was paying his legal fees.
c.2023 The New York Times Organization