The Donald Trump 2020 fundraising cycle: Some money goes to himself — and his lawyers

A lot of the money Trump raised from backers went to lawyers — and some went to himself

By Matthew Rozsa
Published April 16, 2018 8:54AM (EDT)
 (Getty/Olivier Douliery)
(Getty/Olivier Douliery)

President Donald Trump has managed to raise $10.1 million for his 2020 reelection campaign since the start of the year — but a large chunk of the money he has spent has gone toward his legal bills.

The impressive haul adds to the $28 million that he already has in his 2020 war chest, according to USA Today. Yet $834,000 of that money has been spent in the first three months of 2018 on a single task — compensating the various law firms who have had to protect the president from the legal trouble in which he finds himself.

The lion's share of the legal payments made in the start of 2018 by the Trump campaign went to the law firm Jones Day, according to The Washington Post. This amounted to roughly $348,000 to a firm that has helped the campaign fend off investigations by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and various congressional committees into allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian government officials.

The legal payments have also included $93,000 paid to Charles Harder, an attorney in Beverly Hills who tried to suppress the publication of the Michael Wolff book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" and has more recently aided the president in his legal battles against adult film star Stormy Daniels. Harder is perhaps best known for representing wrestler and actor Hulk Hogan in a lawsuit that ultimately bankrupted the news outlet Gawker.

Another $186,000 in campaign money went to the law firm of LaRocca, Hornik, Rosen, Greenberg and Blaha in New York. Campaign lawyers refused to clarify the nature of the payments to that law firm, although they denied that they had been involved in work done on behalf of Michael Cohen, the Trump attorney whose office was raided by authorities last week. Because Cohen has been accused of making an illegal campaign contribution to Trump in 2016 by spending $130,000 to silence porn star Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair in 2006 with the future president — and because Cohen funneled the payment through Essential Consultants, a limited liability corporation with which the law firm has worked — questions were raised as to whether the law firm's involvement with the campaign may have been linked to the Cohen scandal.

The Trump campaign has also spent $13,500 on bills to McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm that has represented Cohen in investigations both pertaining to and unrelated to Russia. Other legal fees were paid to Trump Corp. (a company owned by Trump's two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric) and four other law firms: Belkin, Burden, Wenig & Goldman LLP; Schertler & Onorato LLP; Seyfarth Shaw LLP; and Van Hoy, Reutlinger, Adams & Dunn PLLC.

Trump has also incurred controversy for how his various properties have received money from political organizations that — because the president has yet to fully divest himself from his business empire — could be used to influence him. As, which is owned by the nonprofit and non-partisan research group Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), explained:

No modern president has jumped so directly from the world of business to the presidency as Donald Trump. And in so doing, Trump has refused to do as his predecessors have done: sever ties to the companies or financial interests that may pose, or present the appearance of, a conflict of interest. By keeping his assets in a family-managed trust, which he can revoke at any time, Trump and his family are in the unique position to profit directly from his public service. Special interests in Washington have caught on. Those seeking to curry favor with Trump are not only donating to his reelection campaign but holding fundraisers and galas at his resorts, private clubs and hotels – the proceeds of which benefit him and his family.

According to CRP, nearly $1.8 million was spent in the 2018 cycle in payments to Trump properties by either Trump-related committees ($844,246), the Republican Party ($735,678) and Republican candidates, elected officials and leadership PACs ($158,065). Overall, Trump's American businesses have received at least $15.1 million in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since 2015, according to records on spending from Public Citizen obtained by McClatchy. Most of that money came from the Trump campaign ($13.4 million), although more than $717,000 came from the Republican National Committee and more than $590,000 came from a joint fundraising committee set up by the RNC and Trump's campaign, called Trump Victory.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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