Is The RNC Protecting An Asset? RNC Agrees To Pay $1.6 Million Of Trump’s Legal Bills In New York Tax Fraud Investigation
That means the RNC’s commitment to pay Trump’s personal legal expenses could be more than 10 times higher than previously known.
Last month, the GOP said in campaign-finance filings that it had paid Trump’s personal attorneys $121,670 in October. More payments have been made since then. A party official said Thursday that the RNC paid $578,000 in November to attorneys known to be representing both Trump and his businesses.
The RNC is expected to continue making payments to Trump’s lawyers over the coming months. The RNC executive committee could approve amounts beyond $1.6 million if it chooses.
Trump is using the payments to defend himself against two parallel investigations of his business. Trump is facing a civil probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James and a criminal investigation by James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
Is The RNC Protecting A Valuable Asset In Trump?
Still, paying Trump’s legal bills is a highly unusual move, longtime party observers and members say, because the spending has nothing to do with promoting the GOP’s policy agenda or political priorities, dealing with ongoing party business or campaigning— and relates to investigations that are not about Trump’s time as president or his work in the White House.
Republican Party officials say privately that Trump is the biggest fundraising draw for the party, and they want to stay in his good graces ahead of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel regularly talks to Trump and has in the past warned him against starting a third party. She has managed to keep close ties with him as other advisers have burned out.
The RNC Keeps Bailing Out Trump
The investigation into whether the Trump Organization committed fraud has escalated in recent months. New York prosecutors have interviewed Trump’s longtime banker and accountant, and James has demanded a deposition from Trump in a separate civil case. Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The GOP has spent more than $2.6 million at Trump’s hotels and clubs since Trump won the 2016 election.
The RNC started spending with the party’s 2016 holiday party at Trump’s Washington hotel. The RNC paid $117,000 for that event. This about four times what it had spent on the party in past years. The RNC held the event at a bar near the Capitol before Trump became a candidate.
After that, the RNC also paid for a series of lavish dinners and retreats at Trump’s properties. The GOP continued this trend into Trump’s post-presidency. This spring, the party also moved a donor dinner from another venue to the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club. The GOP paid $175,000 for the room and the food.
Trump has more than $100 million in his PAC and could also pay his own bills, should he choose to do so.
RNC Thinks Trump Is A Victim Of A Witch Hunt
Trump has attacked James repeatedly, saying her investigation is a political “witch hunt.”
Federal law prohibited Trump from spending his own campaign funds on legal fees. FEC sees candidates spending campaign funds on legal fees as on personal expenses and are unrelated to politics.
However, there is no such ban that applies to political parties.
Therefore, the RNC can pay Trump’s legal bills for an investigation unconnected to his time as president.
GOP spokeswoman Emma Vaughn told the Washington Post:
The RNC’s Executive Committee approved paying for certain legal expenses that relate to politically motivated legal proceedings waged against President Trump. As a leader of our party, defending President Trump and his record of achievement is critical to the GOP. It is entirely appropriate for the RNC to continue assisting in fighting back against the Democrats’ never ending witch hunt and attacks on him.