Trump Spent $30 Million From Small-Dollar Donors On Legal Bills In Last 6 Months

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump in the last six months of 2023 put $29.8 million of the money he raised from retirees and other small-dollar donors into the pockets of his lawyers, most of whom are working to keep him out of prison even as he continues seeking his old job in the White House.

The new disclosures filed Wednesday night with the Federal Election Commission bring Trump’s total campaign spending on his personal legal expenses in 2023 to $54.2 million, according to a HuffPost analysis.

The biggest winners are the lawyers handling Trump’s high-profile cases, thus far with limited success.

Chris Kise, the lawyer who argued but lost Trump’s civil fraud case in New York City, saw the two firms he is affiliated with receive $4.9 million between July 1 and Dec. 31. Clifford Robert, who worked with Kise on that case, received $3.9 million.

John Lauro, Trump’s lawyer in the federal criminal case based on the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt, received $2.5 million. Todd Blanche, who is also working on that case, received $1.9 million.

And the firm of Alina Habba ― who represented Trump last week as a jury awarded $83.3 million in a defamation case to a woman whom a different jury last May determined had been sexually abused by Trump ― received $2.3 million, on top of the $1.5 million she was paid in the first half of the year.

Though 46 law firms received payments, eight of them accounted for more than three-quarters of the total.

Lawyer Alina Habba listens as former President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York City on Oct. 4, 2023. Federal Election Commission files show Trump's lawyers getting millions from election funds.
Lawyer Alina Habba listens as former President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York City on Oct. 4, 2023. Federal Election Commission files show Trump’s lawyers getting millions from election funds.

KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

Most of the new payments were made by Save America, the “leadership PAC” Trump created within days of losing his reelection bid in 2020. It raised some $76 million in the following weeks on the promise that donations would help Trump fight the election results in court. In fact, none of Save America’s money went toward that end, and Trump used it instead to pay many of his costs to remain politically relevant.

Trump continued using the same small-dollar fundraising list he built for his campaign while in the White House to pull in millions of dollars every month, almost entirely from donors giving $10 or $20 or $50 at a time. A great many donors listed their occupation as “retired.”

After Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign in November 2022, his official campaign committee began receiving 99% of each dollar raised, with 1% going to Save America. But as Trump’s legal bills continued to mount last year, that formula was quietly modified to increase the fraction going to Save America by tenfold.

Almost all of the legal fees are being paid through Save America, although between July and November, Trump transferred $5.9 million from Save America to a separate Trump committee, the Make America Great Again PAC. Of that $5.9 million, $4.1 million was used to pay lawyers, including some who were also being paid by Save America.

Habba, for example, received $235,426 from the MAGA PAC.

It is unclear why Trump was transferring money around and having lawyers paid through a second committee. The Trump campaign did not respond to a HuffPost query.

Trump is facing a possible fine of $370 million after losing the fraud case based on New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation of business fraud involving inflated estimates of his net worth. He is also potentially facing decades in prison following four criminal indictments totaling 91 felony charges. One federal case and a Georgia prosecution are based on his attempt to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election; a second federal indictment is based on his refusal to return secret documents he took with him to his South Florida country club after leaving the White House; and the fourth is a New York state case claiming he falsified business records to hide a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star just before the 2016 election.

He is, despite all this, the near certain Republican presidential nominee in 2024. He won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary this month and holds large polling leads in the coming nominating contests.

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