Questions about who pays Donald Trump’s lawyers have lingered for several years. In fact, as regular readers may recall, it was just eight months into his term when the public learned that the Republican National Committee was helping pay the then-president’s legal bills as part of the investigation into the Russia scandal. As Rachel noted on the show at the time, no other American president had ever used donor money this way.
Even after Trump left the White House, his need for a robust legal defense continued, and the RNC agreed to help pay the former president’s legal bills — even on matters that predated his time in office.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, is raising money this election season, telling donors in provocative solicitations how important the midterm cycle is. What the fundraising appeals haven’t mentioned is how much of the PAC’s budget is going to the former president’s lawyers. The Washington Post reported:
Donald Trump’s political operation has spent more money since he left office on lawyers representing the former president and a pair of nonprofits staffed by former Cabinet members than it has on Republican congressional campaigns, according to a review of financial filings.
According to the Post’s reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, Trump’s PAC has directed roughly about $8.4 million to Republican campaigns and committees. But the PAC has spent $7 million on the former president’s lawyers and sent an addition $2 million to the groups that employ former administration officials.
Those latter investments include $1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ employer — and another $1 million for the America First Policy Institute, which is led in part by Linda McMahon, who served in Trump’s Cabinet.
The Post added that the single biggest check from the Save America operation was a $3 million payment to a Florida law firm: Trump hired Christopher Kise to represent him in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents scandal, and the attorney insisted on an upfront payment from the former president, who has a reputation for refusing to pay his bills.
For GOP candidates facing financial shortfalls, none of this is welcome news: They’d no doubt prefer if Team Trump were spending more on their campaigns and less on lawyers.
But spare a thought for rank-and-file Republican contributors.
The point behind a political action committee — by most measures, the reason they exist — is to direct funds to likeminded candidates. Individual donors don’t have the time or wherewithal to research every race, so they contribute to a trusted PAC, confident in the knowledge that it will make sure the resources will reach those who’ll benefit most.
But those chipping in to support Trump’s Save America operation aren’t just helping candidates backed by the former president, they’re also helping write checks to lawyers representing the former president deal with his many ongoing scandals.