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Trump Uses Conviction to Fundraise After Millions of Donations Go to Legal Costs

From January to April of this year alone, Trump’s political operation covered more than $20 million of legal fees.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at The People's Convention hosted by Turning Point Action at the Huntington Place in Detroit, Michigan, on June 15, 2024.

Donald Trump became the first former president convicted of a crime last month, despite his political operation using record sums of donor funds to pay tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. Now, Trump claims to have raised tens of millions of dollars immediately after his conviction.

Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts on May 30 in a New York criminal trial that accused the former president of falsifying business records and engaging in a scheme to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election by making hush money payments to withhold information about alleged extramarital sex with adult film actress Stormy Daniels from voters.

But Trump’s legal struggles are far from over. The former president is facing 54 additional criminal charges across three other ongoing cases and various other issues.

As allegations against Trump mount and the costs of defense rise, his campaign and political committees have quickly ramped up legal spending — and fundraising efforts to cover those expenses.

From January to April of this year alone, Trump’s political operation covered more than $20 million of legal fees for lawyers representing the former president and his allies — totaling more than $81 million since the start of the 2024 election cycle. That breaks down to about $171,000 per day going to legal fees.

Trump's political operation has spent about $184 million in legal fees since 2016, with the bulk of that spending in the years following the former president's failed reelection bid in 2020.

The bulk of those payments were made by Save America, Trump’s leadership PAC.

Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee used primarily for small-dollar donations through the 2020 election, and Save America have also transferred funds to the Republican National Committee to cover legal costs. Between 2016 and 2022, those committees transferred over $32.2 million to the Republican Party’s national committee legal account.

Save America, Trump’s leadership PAC that has borne the brunt of his legal costs, initially seeded pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. — also known as MAGA, Inc. — with a $60 million investment. But with legal fees mounting, the leadership PAC reportedly asked the super PAC to refund the money so it could continue covering legal costs, siphoning millions of dollars each month since July 2023.

Other Trump-aligned committees have also shuffled funds, though the purpose of the transfers varies widely from covering strategy consulting to list rental.

Since the start of his 2016 presidential run, Trump-aligned political committees have made more than $1.3 billion in transfers, shuffling money to the RNC and other committees supporting him.

In the face of rising legal costs, the former president and his allies quickly tried to monetize the unprecedented conviction. Shortly after the verdict, Trump-affiliated political committees sent texts and emails hitting up donors for cash.

Hours after the verdict, fundraising emails started to pour in from the Trump National Committee JFC Inc., a new joint fundraising committee between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee that was created in March so it has not reported any spending or fundraising yet. The emails call Trump a "political prisoner," calling the trial "rigged" and a "witch hunt."

Adorned with Trump's mugshot above the phrase “NEVER SURRENDER,” a WinRed fundraising page linked in the text and emails urges donors to give $100 if they "think President Trump did nothing wrong."

"Democrats will spend billions and billions of dollars to try and stop our movement, and we’re counting on YOUR support to finish what we started," the page notes, urging donors to contribute and emphasizing "YOUR SUPPORT IS THE ONLY THING STANDING BETWEEN US AND TOTAL TYRANNY!"

In less than 24 hours after Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts in his hush money trial, Trump's campaign announced that it raised $52.8 million along with the RNC. According to Trump’s campaign, that staggering fundraising is "nearly double" its previous single-day fundraising record on the WinRed platform for Republican donors. Within 48 hours of the verdict, Trump’s campaign claims that total grew to $70 million.

Trump officials announced that the campaign and RNC raised a combined $141 million in May.

The figures released by Trump’s campaign cannot be verified until federal campaign finance reports covering the period are submitted to the FEC but the next deadlines are still weeks away.

The Trump campaign claimed about 30% of those political contributors were new donors to WinRed, a fundraising platform that Republican and conservative groups use to solicit donations primarily from small-dollar donors that temporarily crashed after the verdict.

WinRed fundraising page for the Trump National Committee JFC (Screenshot via WinRed)
WinRed fundraising page for the Trump National Committee JFC.

Small donors, who account for about 30% of the former president’s fundraising this cycle through March, aren’t the only ones motivated by the conviction.

Hours after the verdict, Trump attended a campaign fundraiser for major Republican donors at the residence of South Florida real estate and sugar magnate Pepe Fanjul in Upper East Side Manhattan. Republican donors like Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, real estate titan Steve Witkoff, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and hedge fund billionaire John Paulson were reportedly in attendance. Donors pledged to contribute $30 million to the former president’s campaign, according to the New York Post.

Within hours of the guilty verdict, Shaun Maguire from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Sequoia Capital announced a $300,000 contribution to benefit the former candidate. “The timing isn’t a coincidence,” he emphasized in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Trump continued fundraising with a three-day blitz in California last week. A fundraiser in San Francisco hosted by Silicon Valley venture capitalists Chamath Palihapitiya and David Sacks along with his wife, Jacqueline, on Thursday was projected to yield $12 million in political contributions to Trump’s campaign and the RNC.

Trump and the RNC held another fundraiser in Beverly Hills on Friday. Tickets for the Thursday fundraiser cost $500,000 per couple and benefited the former president’s Trump 47 Joint Fundraising Committee, a new joint fundraising committee that sends the first $6,600 from each donor to Trump’s campaign then divides the rest of the money between his Save America leadership PAC, the RNC and state party committees.

After concluding his California fundraising push with a rally in Newport Beach, Trump jetted to Las Vegas for another event Sunday.

While Trump is making bank off of his guilty verdict, his campaign sent a stern message warning down-ballot Republicans not to use the former president’s conviction to fundraise for themselves. “Any Republican elected official, candidate or party committee siphoning money from President Trump’s donors are no better than Judge Merchan’s daughter,” Trump campaign advisor Chris LaCivita cautioned. “We’re keeping a list, we’ll be checking it twice and we aren’t in the spirit of Christmas.”

Trump vs. Biden

Biden also started fundraising off of his 2024 presidential race opponent’s conviction, though details about fundraising and spending during the period after Trump’s verdict are not required to be officially disclosed to the Federal Election Commission for several weeks.

The Biden campaign and his joint fundraising committee have also used donor funds to cover legal expenses but the totals are by far dwarfed by Trump’s spending on lawyers.

Since the start of the 2020 presidential cycle, Biden's campaign and joint fundraising committee have spent about $4.8 million on legal costs and poured another $31.4 into the Democratic National Committee’s recount account, which covers recounts and other legal proceedings.

Trump's political committees — including his campaign, PAC and joint fundraising committee — have spent about $135.6 million with about $103.6 million paid out to firms and another $32.2 going to the RNC’s recount account to cover legal proceedings. Unlike Trump, Biden does not have a leadership PAC spending on legal fees.

Since the start of the 2024 election cycle, Biden's political operation spent less than $1.4 million on legal costs and transferred another $5 million to the DNC recount account. Trump’s campaign and his joint fundraising committees have poured about $70.8 million in legal spending. Including each candidate's primary super PAC, the difference is even more stark.

Trump's Legal Spending Rises

Trump’s unsuccessful defense in the New York criminal hush money trial was bankrolled with millions of dollars drawn from donors to his political committees.

From the start of the 2024 election cycle through April of this year, Trump’s political operation paid over $4.9 million to Blanche Law, a law firm run by Trump lawyers Todd Blanche & Emil Bove. The two attorneys represented the former president in the New York hush money case. Blanche also represents Trump in two other federal criminal cases, so some of the legal fees may have gone to cover those cases as well.

Despite the millions in payments, Trump’s PAC still owed the law firm over $837,000 in outstanding debt as of the end of April, according to the most recent FEC report filed by Save America PAC.

Susan Necheles, who previously represented the Trump Organization in its criminal tax fraud case, is another attorney who worked on the hush money case and has been paid by Trump’s political groups. Trump’s political operation started paying her law firm, Necheles Law LLP, shortly after his indictment in 2023 but quickly racked up nearly $1.7 million in expenses over the year.

But the total Trump’s political operation has paid Blanche and Necheles’ firms is far surpassed by how much his political network paid lawyers representing Trump in other cases as well as its payments to firms representing Trump’s alleged co-conspirators and key witnesses testifying in those cases.

This cycle, Trump’s political operation has paid more legal fees to Robert & Robert PLLC than any other law firm. The firm has raked in over $8.6 million from the former president’s political operation since the start of the 2024 election cycle.

Robert & Robert PLLC is run by Trump attorney Clifford Robert, who represented the former president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in the New York attorney general’s fraud case.

Robert made headlines last year for his cross-examination of Michael Cohen, which exposed potential contradictions in the longtime Trump fixer and personal attorney’s testimony.

Nevertheless, the judge in that case ordered Trump and his codefendants to pay $355 million, plus interest, for years of lying about the former president’s wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals as he built the real estate empire.

Chris Kise, a Florida-based lawyer who previously served as the state’s solicitor general, is another top-paid Trump attorney.

Trump’s political operation paid about $11.5 million to his eponymous Chris Kise & Associates firm and Continental PLLC, the law firm where he currently works, from the start of the 2024 election cycle through the end of April.

Kise joined Trump's legal team for the federal criminal case over his alleged mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House and was the former president’s lead lawyer in the New York attorney general’s civil fraud lawsuit.

Critton, Luttier & Coleman, another law firm based in Palm Beach, Fla., near Mar-A-Lago, reportedly transferred an initial $3 million payment upfront to Kise to join Trump’s legal team. Firms affiliated with Kise have collectively raked in more than $16.1 million from Trump’s political circle.

Alina Habba is another lawyer whose firm has raked in millions of dollars from Trump’s political groups. In addition to representing the former president in multiple cases, Habba serves as his legal spokesperson.

Her firm, Habba Madaio & Associates, received more than $4 million from Trump’s political groups since the start of the 2024 cycle.

Along with fellow partner Michael Madaio, Habba’s firm represented Trump in two civil cases brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. In 2023, Trump was ordered to pay Carroll $5 million in damages and was ordered to pay another $83.3 million in February for additional defamation claims. Trump appealed both outcomes, though a judge rejected Trump’s request for a new trial over the $83.3 million verdict in April.

Trump’s Hidden Lawyers

One of the top beneficiaries of the Trump political operation’s legal spending during the 2024 election cycle remains a mystery. Red Curve Solutions, an accounting and compliance firm led by longtime Trump campaign treasurer Bradley Crate that reportedly does not offer legal services, received about $8 million in “reimbursements” for legal fees from Trump’s political operation through the end of April.

Those payments were routed through Trump’s Make America Great Again PAC, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the Trump Save America PAC and the Save America joint fundraising committee. But none of the groups in Trump’s political circle discloses what firm is actually providing the legal services that Red Curve Solutions was reimbursed for fronting.

Red Curve Solutions has faced legal scrutiny for fronting legal costs for the Trump political operation. Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming the arrangement “seems designed to obscure the true recipients of a noteworthy portion of Trump’s legal bills and, in doing so, seems to violate federal law.”

The Campaign Legal Center alleges that the arrangement violates campaign finance rules requiring political committees to disclose the underlying vendor as well as the entity being reimbursed.

The watchdog group also alleges that the arrangement violates a federal prohibition on corporate political contributions. As a limited liability company, Red Curve Solutions is “legally barred from making any contributions, such as an in-kind contribution or advance, to Trump’s campaign and any other ‘hard money’ committee – even if that payment or advance is fully reimbursed,” the Campaign Legal Center’s FEC complaint details.

The Trump political operation’s reimbursements paid to a firm run by a Trump campaign official raise even more questions in light of Trump’s criminal conviction for falsifying business records related to hush money payments prosecutors say were falsely labeled as legal expenses.

The case against Trump stemmed from a $130,000 hush money payment that Trump’ longtime fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels one month before the 2016 elections to cover up her allegations of having an affair with Trump in 2006.

Prosecutors claim Trump reimbursed Cohen $420,000 — covering the $130,000 payment to Daniels payment, a $60,000 bonus, taxes on the payment and another expense — were falsely labeled as being payments for legal services through a retainer agreement.

Multiple members of Trump’s legal team have confirmed Trump’s plans to challenge the verdict. The former president’s legal team will have an opportunity to appeal the verdict to the Appellate Division of New York’s First Judicial Department within 30 days of his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 11 — just four days before Trump is expected to receive the GOP presidential nomination at this year's Republican National Convention.

After the Appellate Division rules, the losing party has an option to appeal to New York's highest state-level court, the Court of Appeal.

Trump posted on Truth Social, his personal social media site, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after the conviction. But Trump cannot appeal directly to the high court. In order for the case to go before the Supreme Court, Trump’s legal team would need to raise an issue of federal law or a constitutional challenge during the appeals process.

“We plan to vigorously defend President Trump's rights in the appellate courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary," Will Scharf, a member of Donald Trump's legal team who is currently running for attorney general in Missouri, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

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