Georgia officials collect fees from Trump’s lawyers — but who really paid for bogus suits?

Legal fees were paid through a Trump lawyer — but he insists the defeated ex-president didn't foot the bills

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published June 23, 2021 5:55AM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Election officials in two Georgia counties have recovered legal fees stemming from former President Trump's failed election lawsuit — but his attorney is playing coy about who really paid the bills.

Election officials in DeKalb and Cobb counties in February sought to recoup legal fees over what they described as a "meritless and legally deficient" lawsuit, which claimed, entirely without evidence, that tens of thousands of illegal voters participated in the presidential election. Trump withdrew the lawsuit a day before the hearing, the same week as the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

A court was set to hear arguments over the legal fees last Friday but both counties said in filings that they had recovered the costs, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Cobb County Board of Elections received $15,554 to pay for its legal costs, according to a Friday court filing. DeKalb recovered $6,105 in fees, telling a judge on Monday that "plaintiffs, through counsel, have provided payment for the full amount of attorneys' fees."

But Trump's lawyer in the case, Randy Evans, denied that the notoriously stingy ex-president had paid the fees, but declined to say who did.

"The two motions have been withdrawn. There was no settlement agreement," Evans, who also represents the Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party, told the Journal-Constitution. "The taxpayers in DeKalb and Cobb have been fully reimbursed. There are no other details because there are no other details."

Daniel White, an attorney for Cobb County, said the fees were paid through Evans' firm.

"I would certainly defer to them if they want to clarify where they got the funds from," White told the outlet.

Trump raised more than $250 million after his election loss, ostensibly to fund his legal battles. But he spent just a small fraction of those donations on actual legal costs and far more on additional fundraising and advertising. Five of his impeachment lawyers quit just a week ahead of his second Senate trial over a pay dispute, and Trump is still refusing to pay Rudy Giuliani for his tireless labors in pursuing work baseless allegations of election fraud.

Trump's legal problems are only growing worse after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance convened a grand jury to hear evidence in his years-long criminal investigation into the former president himself and the Trump Organization, an investigation that has now been joined by the New York state attorney general's office. Trump also faces a criminal probe in Georgia over his efforts to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn his election loss. He also faces multiple lawsuits, including from women who have accused him of rape or sexual assault and a lawsuit by lawmakers and the NAACP accusing him of inciting the Capitol riot.

Trump has complained that the big legal bills are "such a pain in the ass," The Daily Beast reported last month. His legal team filed a motion in May demanding that Democratic lawmakers who sued him over the Capitol riot "should be ordered to pay President Trump's fees and costs."

The riot took place amid a flurry of lawsuits from Trump and his allies, all of which failed as Republicans could not produce any evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities. Some of the former president's allies face sanctions or disciplinary action for bringing frivolous suits while others, like Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, face billion-dollar lawsuits from voting technology firms they falsely accused of switching votes from Trump to President Biden.

The fact that there is no evidence to back up any of these "stolen election" claims has not stopped Trump's supporters from continuing to use his election lies to torment election officials.

Raffensperger and his family and other election officials have faced a barrage of death threats and have even been forced to flee their homes, according to Reuters. Raffensperger's wife Tricia told the outlet that their family was forced to go into hiding for nearly a week after intruders broke into their widowed daughter-in-law's home, which they believe was intended to intimidate them. Tricia Raffensperger said people who identified themselves to police as members of the Oath Keepers militia had been seen outside their home that same night.

Amid the threats, Republican lawmakers in Georgia passed a bill stripping Raffensperger of many of his election powers after he stood up to Trump's lies, potentially making it easier to overturn future elections.

Numerous other officials in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan have been deluged with death threats or have "faced protests at their homes or been followed in their cars," according to the Reuters report, including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as well as election administrators and volunteers. Arizona Republicans have moved to strip Hobbs of her powers as well.

Richard Barron, the Fulton County elections director, said the threats received by his office have been shared with investigators looking into Trump's pressure on Raffensperger. Barron told Reuters that most of the workers in his office are Black, adding that "the racial slurs were disturbing and sickening."

Other messages threatened violence and bombings, with one email sent to at least 11 counties in Georgia warning that "we'll make the Boston bombings look like child's play" and "bring death and destruction" until "Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS until 2024 like he should be."

Deidre Holden, the longtime Paulding County elections director, told Reuters that her office had referred the messages to police and the FBI. "I've never had to deal with anything like this," she said. "It was frightening."

Nearly eight months after the election, a startling proportion of Americans still believe the 2020 election was tainted with fraud. About 32% of voters believe that Biden's election was fraudulent, according to a new Monmouth poll, a rate that has remained steady since November.

"The continuing efforts to question the validity of last year's election is deepening the partisan divide in ways that could have long-term consequences for our democracy," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, "even if most Americans don't quite see it that way yet."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregation Brad Raffensperger Cy Vance Donald Trump Elections Georgia Jocelyn Benson Katie Hobbs Voter Fraud