Trending Topics

Can Donald Trump’s Campaign Funds Cover His Mounting Legal Expenses?

Former President Donald Trump spent about $50 million from Republican donors on legal bills in 2023 as he faced a panoply of criminal and civil charges, according to a report by The New York Times.

Thus far in the 2024 primary, Trump’s Save America PAC, has spent about as much money on legal bills as Trump’s only competitor, Nikki Haley, has managed to raise for all her campaign committees combined over the past year, the report said. 

The massive sum of money covered expenses for Trump’s legal defense, as well as payments to lawyers who represented witnesses involved in Trump’s spiraling legal web.

Donald Trump will not appear on two primary ballots during presidential run
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to guest at a campaign event on December 19, 2023 in Waterloo, Iowa. Iowa Republicans will be the first to select their party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential race, when they go to caucus on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Sources told the Times that Trump spent more money than his campaign raised during the second half of 2023, while millions of dollars in donations were moved to the PAC in recent months to help pay Trump’s legal defense.

The account initially received a surge of donations after the 2020 election — which Trump lost but falsely claimed to his followers that the process was rigged.

As the Save America fund began drying up last year, Trump privately called on another pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., to give back $60 million that was initially intended to help support his 2024 campaign. 

Instead, the money was transferred into Save America, which is one of the largest funds that continues to cover Trump’s runaway legal bills.

In the latter half of 2023, MAGA Inc. returned $30 million to Save America, averaging $5 million per month on top of $12.5 million in refunds the super PAC had already reported in the first half of the year.

Additionally, Trump allocated 10 percent of online donations to Save America, meaning 10 cents of every dollar from his supporters goes to the PAC and from there to his lawyers, the Times reported.

Another pro-Trump PAC called Make America Great Again has also helped cover Trump’s legal bills.

During the first six months of 2023, Save America channeled $5.85 million to the Make America Great Again PAC, with nearly the entire amount being allocated to cover Trump’s mounting legal expenses.

The $50 million figure is a rough combination of legal payments by both groups, the Times reported.

The precise amount that the PACs spent on legal bills over the past year will be revealed in new filings to the Federal Election Commission. It appeared that Trump was increasingly using his candidacy to bail him out of his legal troubles. 

The accuracy of the spending totals depend on how Trump’s campaign team categorized specific expense items while completing the required FEC paperwork.

Some expenditures have already been scrutinized as documents showed Trump’s Save America PAC also paid former first lady Melania Trump’s stylist $18,000 a month for “strategy consulting.”

The documents could also paint a clearer picture of Trump’s overall financial health as the Republican frontrunner faced staggering penalties in two New York civil cases in which he was found guilty of business fraud and defamation.

The pending ruling from Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron poses a significant risk to Trump, which could permanently ban his business empire in the state and impose a hefty financial penalty of $370 million.

That ruling comes on the heels of a separate judgment issued in the defamation suit brought by author E. Jean Carroll, in which Trump was ordered to pay $83 million.

Trump vowed to appeal the Carroll verdict, and while awaiting that ruling, it’s likely the former president will not immediately pay her. However, he might be required to put up a substantial sum of his own money as the appeals process plays out.

While Trump has the option to pay the entire amount to the court or obtain a bond, he cannot legally use campaign funds to pay any of the $83.3 million awarded to Carroll.

Separately, Trump faces criminal trial this spring after being indicted for his failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as a similar case in Georgia after he was indicted with 19 co-defendants in connection with a conspiracy to subvert the state results.

Additionally, Trump was hit with a federal indictment in Florida last summer on 37 counts for his alleged mishandling of classified documents that were found at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office.

Trump is also scheduled to go on trial to face 34 felony charges related to a hush-money scheme involving former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Back to top