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Trump’s Political Operation Paid Over $44 Million to Witness Lawyers Since 2020

Trump is now facing allegations of witness tampering in multiple ongoing cases.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Concerned Women for America Summit held at the Capitol Hilton on Friday, Sept 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors are probing former President Donald Trump’s political operation after it paid over $44 million to lawyers and law firms that have represented potential witnesses and codefendants in his ongoing legal cases since 2020 — accounting for about half of the operation’s legal expenses during that time, a new OpenSecrets analysis found.

The political network’s payments to lawyers and law firms that represent witnesses and defendants in the former president’s ongoing legal cases have raised concerns about Trump pressuring witnesses citing the former president’s history of allegedly trying to influence witnesses. From Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and Trump’s first impeachment to the mounting number of ongoing legal cases, Trump also has provided lawyers to allies caught up in his own legal cases.

In a new filing Wednesday, the district attorney’s office in Fulton County, Ga., prosecuting Trump and 18 co-defendants in an election interference case provided a list of potential witnesses — several of whom have been represented by lawyers or law firms that were also paid by Trump’s political network.

Federal court records from the fight over Special Council Jack Smith’s search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account that were unsealed on Sept. 15. highlight Trump’s propensity toward retaliation and called Trump’s paying legal fees for “potential witnesses against him” as an “obstructive effort.”

“This pattern of obstructive conduct amply supports the district court’s conclusion that the former President presents a significant risk of tampering with evidence, seeking to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and ‘otherwise seriously jeopardizing’ the Government’s ongoing investigations,” the special counsel’s office wrote.

Trump is now facing allegations of witness tampering in multiple ongoing cases.

In August, a key potential witness in the Mar-a-Lago document retention case “retracted his prior false testimony” after the Justice Department raised questions about whether his initial lawyer had a conflict of interest in representing both the witness and another defendant in the case.

The witness was not named in the court filings but was described as an employee of Trump and identified by multiple news outlets as Yuscil Taveras, an information technology worker at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club and residence in Florida where the classified documents were stored.

The Mar-a-Lago employee was previously represented by lawyer Stanley Woodward, whose firm has been paid $376,000 from Trump’s political network.

Woodward also represents multiple other possible witnesses and one of Trump’s codefendants, Mar-a-Lago employee Walt Nauta. Lawyers at Brand Woodward Law have also represented Jan. 6 rioter Ryan Samsel, Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs and former White House advisor Peter Navarro, who was convicted on Sept. 7 for failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Brand Woodward Law is not the only firm that has represented Navarro and been paid by Trump’s political network.

In total, Trump’s political network reported steering about $130 million in donor funds to pay lawyers and cover legal costs since he first began running for office. The network paid over $50 million of that since the start of 2022.

While Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign is the group most directly tied to the former president, the operation has also included his leadership PAC, joint fundraising committees and super PACs run by Trump allies.

Trump’s political network has also paid other law firms representing potential witnesses and defendants in the cases against him.

The Trump political network’s top-paid firm that has also represented potential witnesses in legal cases is Jones Day, which has collected more than $19 million from the operation since 2020. The firm represented Lindsay Graham in unsuccessful efforts to avoid testifying about attempts to overturn 2020 presidential election results in Fulton County, Ga. Graham’s campaign paid the firm $350,000 in January of this year.

Jones Day also advised Trump Attorney General William Barr during a closed-door deposition and represented Trump’s campaign on election law and campaign finance compliance, as well as matters related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Another $4.2 million has gone to the law firm of Jesse Binnall, Trump’s top election fraud lawyer. Even after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Binnall continued to spread false claims of voter fraud. The firm was involved in a failed legal fight in Nevada. Binnall was previously co-counsel with Sidney Powell on the defense team of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. The firm was also paid for 2020 recount efforts, OpenSecrets analysis of Federal Election Commission filings found.

Since 2020, Trump’s political network paid about $4.1 million to Elections LLC, which was launched by former White House ethics counsel Stefan Passantino and incorporated weeks before the Trump 2020 campaign’s first payment to it. Elections LLC also represented several witnesses appearing before the Jan. 6 committee.

Trump’s political network paid $3.4 million to Silverman Thompson Slutkin since the start of 2022. The firm represented Steve Bannon and has also represented Trump in the Mar-a-Lago document retention case.

Trump’s political network has paid about $2.8 to Greenberg Traurig LLP, a law firm that has represented former Trump adviser Jason Miller, who testified before the Jan. 6 select committee.

The network paid another $1.3 million to Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, a law firm that has represented former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

In 2022, Trump’s Save America PAC paid nearly $900,000 to McGuireWoods, a firm that has represented Mark Meadows. Meadows, who was indicted along with Trump and 17 other allies in the Georgia case, currently has other legal representation.

Trump’s political network paid about $464,000 to Smith & Liss LLC, the law firm of Ray Smith, who was also indicted along with Trump in the Fulton County case. Smith also represented former trial attorney Lin Wood, who was listed as a potential witness for the prosecution in a new filing Wednesday in the Georgia case.

Save America PAC paid $475,000 to JPRowley, a firm that has represented Navarro and has also worked for conservative lawyer and Trump ally Cleta Mitchell. Trump’s network also steered $367,000 to Secil Law PLLC, a firm where John Rowley — who resigned from Trump’s legal team hours after Trump was indicted on charges related to classified documents — is a partner. Rowley has represented both Mitchell and Navarro.

Trump’s political operation has paid about $353,000 to the law firm of Michael Blanche, a former federal prosecutor who represents Trump in the Mar-A-Lago classified documents case and in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. Blanche also represents Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s in-house counsel who is listed on a potential witness list filed Thursday in the Georgia election interference trial.

The network paid about $189,000 to Earth & Water Law Group, a corporate environmental law firm. John Irving, a partner at the firm and a former senior Environmental Protection Agency Lawyer in the Trump administration, was hired by Peter Navarro to defend him against contempt of Congress charges.

The Trump political network paid another $473,000 to the law firm of Alan S. Futerfas, a New York-based criminal attorney who has represented the Trump Organization and also represented Donald Trump Jr. in the Russian election meddling investigation.

The Garber Group received another $385,000 in payments from Trump’s political network. CNN confirmed Trump-aligned groups paid the firm for the legal fees of witnesses in the House January 6th committee’s investigation.

Kevin Marino, founding partner of Marino, Tortorella, & Boyle, has represented former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. The Jan. 6 panel played prerecorded video testimony of Stepien contradicting Trump’s claims of election fraud. Trump’s political operation also paid the firm for 2020 recount efforts.

Other firms making millions from Trump’s political network may not have provided legal representation to potential witnesses but still had other entanglements.

For example, Red Curve Solutions, a compliance firm that Trump’s political operation paid nearly $4 million explicitly to cover legal costs, reportedly offered a job to former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson around the same time as her testimony before the House January 6th committee. Hutchinson declined the offer, according to committee transcripts.

Trump Codefendants Fundraising to Cover Costs

But Trump has not covered legal costs for all of his allies.

Some of Trump’s codefendants in the Georgia case have used online crowdfunding sites to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the costs of legal representation.

Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who represented Trump in 2020 who was charged along with Trump in the Georgia case, raised more than $204,000 for the Jenna Ellis Legal Defense Fund through a faith-based crowdfunding site called GiveSendGo.

John Eastman, who served as Trump’s attorney on several cases that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and was also charged in the Georgia case, has raised more than $540,000 for his legal defense through GiveSendGo since launching a legal defense fund page in December 2021.

Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official charged in the Georgia case, has collected more than $62,000 in donations to his legal defense. Cathy Latham, a fake elector in Georgia after the 2020 election, has raised more than $21,000 through the site for her own defense fund.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney, has turned to political fundraising to cover his own legal costs but is still struggling to pay legal fees related to several cases related to his service as Trump’s personal attorney around the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, Giuliani’s attorney sued the former New York mayor-turned-Trump-lawyer for more than $1.3 million in allegedly unpaid legal fees dating back to 2019. Giuliani’s attorney claims the lawsuit is a consequence of Trump failing to pay Giuliani for years of work as Trump’s personal attorney.

Andrew Giuliani, Giuliani’s son, helped form a new hybrid PAC called Giuliani Defense that could help him cover legal costs, according to federal campaign finance records filed in August.

On Sept. 7, Trump headlined a $100,000-per-person fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for Giuliani. Giuliani’s son claimed in a radio interview that the fundraiser was expected to raise more than $1 million and that Trump had committed to hosting another fundraiser later this year at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.

“That will be very helpful,” Andrew Giuliani said in the interview, but noted that it “won’t be enough to get through this.”

This article is part of a series that is funded in part by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism that follows the money around Jan. 6, 2021, and the spread of election misinformation.

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