More than $27M in Trump campaign fundraising went to legal costs in the last six months of 2023

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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s affiliated committees spent about $27 million on lawyers’ bills and related legal fees in the last six months of 2023, new federal election filings show, bringing the total for a year that included four separate indictments to almost $50 million. 

The former president’s political fundraising apparatus is sprawling, but the new filings show that the price of lawyers is weighing down the GOP presidential frontrunner. Still, Trump has seized on the legal cases against him as a potent fundraising tool, with his booking in a Georgia election case giving him what his campaign said was a record single-day haul.

Save America PAC, one of the groups that Trump uses to raise money, spent $24.3 million on “legal consulting” in the last six months of 2023, according to federal election filings. That includes payments to firms that include lawyers like John Lauro, who is representing Trump in the case related to his effort to overturn the 2020 election; Todd Blanche, who also represents Trump in the New York hush money case; and Alina Habba, who represents Trump in the defamation case filed against him by author E. Jean Carroll and has appeared at his criminal arraignments. 

While the Save America PAC raised $36 million over the last six months, $30 million came across six monthly payments from Make America Great Again Inc., a Trump-affiliated super PAC. While Save America helped to provide early funding for MAGA Inc. when it launched at the beginning of Trump’s presidential bid, it appears that much of that money has been returned to Save America, which has been the primary vehicle for paying Trump’s legal fees. In the first six months of 2023, Save America PAC took more than $12 million from MAGA Inc. 

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Save America ended the year with just $5 million in cash banked away, after spending $35.2 million in total in the second half of 2023, almost as much as it raised. 

On top of the legal spending from Save America, another Trump-affiliated group, the Make America Great Again PAC (which under federal law Trump raises money toward and can say how the money is used) spent $2.4 million on additional legal consulting in the second half of 2023. 

Trump’s committees previously reported spending more than $20 million on legal fees in the first half of 2023. 

Both groups also reimbursed another company, which handles campaign finance compliance and prepares disclosures for the campaign, millions more for legal fees. It wasn’t clear if those legal fees were associated with complying with federal campaign finance law or investigations into Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. 

A fund to cover the legal fees for some of Trump’s aides raised more than $1.6 million between July and December, according to its filing. Known as the Patriot Legal Defense Fund, it does not contribute toward Trump’s legal expenses. 

The filings show the brunt of the financial weight of Trump’s legal defense across four criminal cases, including two indictments related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, one over his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House. He also has been the subject of a civil fraud lawsuit in Manhattan related to Trump’s business.

Trump’s legal woes have also taken the former president off of the campaign trail and into courtrooms, monopolizing resources and diverting him with legal brawls.     

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Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, has attacked Trump over his legal spending, posting on X this week that “He can’t beat Joe Biden if he’s spending all his time and money on court cases and chaos.”

Haley has continued to fundraise despite early losses to Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire, even as the former president threatens to blacklist her donors. 

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