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Trump’s PAC spent $230k a day on legal fees in February, records show

Donald Trump’s legal bills are outpacing the money coming into one of his chief political action committees, underscoring the strain of his many courtroom battles, lawsuits and criminal charges on his presidential campaign.

Fundraising committees tied to the Republican former president have routinely relied on his trial losses and the mountain of criminal charges against him to ask his supporters for money while casting him as a victim of a political conspiracy from his Democratic rivals.

His Save America leadership PAC spent nearly $5.6m in February while raising $5m, according to campaign reports to the Federal Election Commission. The PAC ended the month with roughly $4m in the bank.

Mr Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, who represented him in a blockbuster fraud case and a defamation trial that have left him on the hook for more than half a billion dollars in penalties, was also due to receive more than $530,000.

All together, Mr Trump’s legal fees through Save America reached nearly $7m in February, or the equivalent of roughly $230,000 a day.

Since the beginning of the year, Save America has spent $8.5m on Mr Trump’s legal bills, while his own campaign has spent less than $2m.

Last year, his campaign spent more than $55m on attorneys and legal fees, before a single one of his criminal trials began, with government filings revealing that he paid out millions of dollars to almost 50 firms.

MAGA Inc, another Trump-aligned super PAC, took in $12.7m in February, including a $5m boost from hotelier Robert Bigelow, among wealthy Republican donors courted by Mr Trump’s campaign while he pumps millions from small-dollar donors with fundraising messages that overwhelmingly use his legal drama to ask for cash.

Exhausting Save America’s stash

Mr Trump’s campaign ended the month with roughly $33.5m on hand, nearly all of which came through a transfer from a joint fundraising committee. Together, the campaign and Save America raised a combined $15.9m in February, ending the month with $37m on hand.

But the PAC intended to fund his campaign has diverted millions of dollars back into a PAC that has been serving his primary account to pay a stable of lawyers and their fees. MAGA Inc has thus far returned roughly $52m of the $60m that Save America had asked to be refunded.

For every dollar raised by the joint committee, 10 cents is directed to Save America, largely serving as a pool for his legal fees, with the other 90 cents going to his campaign.

At that rate, his Save America stash is on track to be exhausted that $60m as Mr Trump heads into a busy spring and summer of criminal proceedings as the Republican Party selects its likely nominee to face President Joe Biden in November.

Mr Trump faces 88 criminal charges in four jurisdictions and is appealing a $464m judgment from a months-long fraud trial as well as a nearly $84m verdict stemming from a defamation case from E Jean Carroll.

While he secured a more than $91m bond to appeal the latter case, he is struggling to come up with the cash for a bond to pause collections while he appeal his fraud judgment, which New York Attorney General Letitia James can begin enforcing on 25 March.

Trump is draining small-dollar donors. Who’s left?

Meanwhile, those smaller dollar donors are starting to dry up.

Mr Trump’s campaign has largely been powered by an aggressive fundraising operation relying on a long list of potential contributors, with only 6 per cent of his campaign cash coming in from donors who hit the $6,600 limit.

Last year, his campaign raised 62.5 per cent less from those donors than it did in 2019, ahead of the last presidential election.

His looming financial crisis also presents significant questions about how and where he intends to raise the millions of dollars he needs to continue his legal battles, with the White House serving as an ostensible shield against his growing legal issues.

Federal law explicitly prohibits campaign donations, directly or indirectly, from foreign nationals. What about support for presidential candidates seeking financial support to face their criminal cases and evade hundreds of millions of dollars in civil liabilities? Asked explicitly on Fox News whether Mr Trump is considering tapping foreign money, Ms Habba said she “can’t speak about strategy”.

The Republican National Committee, which Mr Trump has successfully transformed with his hand-picked leadership, reported raising $10.7m in February, and ended the month with $11.3m cash on hand – a chunk of which Mr Trump will no doubt try to tap into when he formally secure’s the party’s nomination.

That could be a significant strain on the many congressional and state and local candidates that are also hoping to receive RNC support.

Lara Trump, Mr Trump’s daughter-in-law and the RNC’s new co-chair, has said that “every penny” of what the RNC raises will support him, which could spell disaster for other GOP candidates hoping for relief in competitive races.

Biden and Democrats are outpacing Trump

Fundraising from the RNC and Mr Trump’s campaigns has also been outpaced by the Democratic National Committee and Mr Biden’s fundraising arms ahead of a crucial campaign period.

President Biden’s fundraising arms reported raising $53m last month with $155m on hand. That includes support from the DNC, which reported raising $16.6m with $26.6m on hand – more than double the RNC reserves backing Mr Trump’s campaign.

“If Donald Trump put up these kinds of numbers on The Apprentice, he’d fire himself,” Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement.

At a campaign event on Wednesday, Mr Biden joked that he recently spoke with a man with a “crushing” amount of debt. “Donald, I’m sorry I can’t help you,” he said.