“As Legal Fees Mount, Trump Steers Donations Into PAC That Has Covered Them”


Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees.

The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.

When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America.

But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.

The effect of that change is potentially substantial: Based on fund-raising figures announced by his campaign, the fine-print maneuver may already have diverted at least $1.5 million to Save America.

And the existence of the group has allowed Mr. Trump to have his small donors pay for his legal expenses, rather than paying for them himself….

“I think in this particular situation, specifically because of the use of the leadership PAC to pay legal expenses and potentially other expenses that would be illegal personal use of campaign money, there’s an unusual incentive for the leadership PAC to take in more than it normally would,” said Adav Noti, senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center.

In the run-up to Mr. Trump’s latest campaign, his legal bills exploded in size. Save America spent $1.9 million in what it identified as legal expenses in the first half of 2022. That figure ballooned to nearly $14.6 million in the second half of last year, federal records show.

In late 2022, a Trump adviser said that about $20 million had been set aside by Save America PAC to cover legal expenses.

Since then, Mr. Trump has been indicted twice, once by a Manhattan grand jury on charges stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star, and once by a federal grand jury in Florida on charges including violations of the Espionage Act arising from Mr. Trump’s possession of classified material and government records long after he left office….

It remains unclear whether Mr. Trump will try to use his campaign funds to pay for lawyers, should he run into difficulties with the political action committee — and whether such a move would run afoul of spending rules.

“He can use the campaign to pay for legal bills that arise out of candidate or officeholder activity — and of course, some of the current legal matters fall into that category, and some do not, and some are in a gray area,” Mr. Noti said. “It really depends on what matter we’re talking about.”

Jason Torchinsky, a Republican election lawyer, said he believed Mr. Trump was barred from using Save America donations to pay his personal legal expenses now that he’s a candidate, arguing that doing so would be “an excessive contribution” under Federal Election Commission precedent. And he said Mr. Trump could not use campaign money at all, because it would qualify as personal use.

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