As he faces a major new lawsuit from the New York attorney general that could shut down his business, former President Donald Trump will have one advantage that is unavailable to most well-healed defendants: He won’t have to pay for much, if any, of his legal defense.
The reason: His political donors are doing it for him.
Recent filings by Save America, Trump’s political action committee, show the group has shelled out $1,128,020 this year to lawyers who have spearheaded his and his family’s defense in their legal battle with New York Attorney General Letitia James.
These include $942,277 to the law firm of Alina Habba, the New Jersey-based lawyer who has been Trump’s lead lawyer in the case. The total includes $207,827 paid just last month. In addition, Alan Futerfas, another longtime Trump lawyer who is representing the former president’s children in the case, received $184,743 from Save America in July.
“It’s an outrageous abuse of his donors to Save America,” said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, about the use of political committee funds to defend Trump and his family in a lawsuit that is largely focused on his business activities long before he became president or even a candidate.
But Ghosh acknowledged that the payments fall into a murky legal gray zone. Federal law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal use, which the Federal Election Committee has ruled covers spending for legal expenses unrelated to a candidate’s political or official duties. But there have been no clear rulings on whether such prohibitions apply to so-called leadership PACs, such as Save America. As a result, “Trump can rest assured the FEC wont be bringing legal action,” Ghosh said.
Habba and a spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Yahoo News. Futerfas could not be reached.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses Trump and his three adult children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — of lying to banks and insurers as part of a pattern of conduct dating back to 2011. The allegations include charges that Trump and his family repeatedly inflated assets by billions of dollars to obtain loans they might not have otherwise gotten in what James in a news conference described as acts of “staggering” fraud.
“Claiming that you have money you don’t have is not ‘the art of the deal,’” James said at her press conference. “It’s the art of the steal.”
Habba, who together with Futerfas had earlier this year tried unsuccessfully to get subpoenas quashed in the case, fired back in a statement saying that James’s case “is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda. It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s office has exceeded its authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
Save America, a political organization that was founded by Trump after the 2020 election, has raised $103 million in the 2022 political cycle. The PAC tells donors that “the future of our Country is at stake” and asks “all Patriots” to make contributions to aid Trump’s “fight to Save America,” according to the donation page on the website of Save America’s Joint Fundraising Committee, which raises money both for Save America and Make America Great Again, another one of Trump’s political action committees.
There are no references on the donation page of the website to seeking funds to assist Trump in his legal troubles. But filings with the FEC show that Save America had, as of the end of July, doled out $2.3 million to 19 law firms across the country representing Trump in multiple investigations, including the criminal probes by the Justice Department and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office into the events surrounding the 2020 election, as well as the New York state civil probe. In addition, the filings show that Save America has been footing the bill for lawyers representing a number of witnesses in those cases, including Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser, and Dan Scavino, his former social media director.