Trump campaign and Republicans have now spent nearly $60 million on lawyers for the president

Trump campaign and Republicans have now spent nearly $60 million on lawyers for the president
President Donald J. Trump participates in a tax reform kickoff event at the Loren Cook Company, Wednesday, August 30, 2017, in Springfield, Missouri. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

As evidence mounts that the Donald Trump campaign is going broke, you might be wondering just how the heck a presidential incumbent could manage to churn through a nine-figure amount of donations and be coming up short only weeks after its own national convention.


We don't know, but this might be a clue: The New York Times and Campaign Finance Institute counted up the latest totals of just how much Republican "donation" money is being spent not on Trump's campaigning, but Trump's lawyers. The new total? At least $58.4 million. Trump, his allies, and the Republican National Committee have spent nearly $60 million, since 2015, on Dear Leader's lawyering.

Yikes.

The Times' report makes it clear that this level of legal spending is absolutely not normal. In addition to defending Trump from the Russia probe and the near-countless sexual harassment and corruption scandals surrounding him, Trump has also used donor cash to file lawsuits against ex-campaign and White House staff members who he says broke "nondisclosure" agreements and to file lawsuits against major news outlets after they published damaging opinion columns about him, thus turning the supposed legal fund into a slush fund for settling Trump’s personal vendettas.

If you're thinking Trump is bilking small-dollar donors out of their money, with all these legal bills: yes and no. The Trump campaign has provided some of the money, but a large chunk is coming from the Republican National Committee's legal "recount account" fund, an established party fund that is allowed to accept donations far in excess of normal campaign contribution limits. That means it's funded by some of the richest Republicans in America.

Oh, but don't worry. The Times reports that a National Republican Committee spokesperson "rejected" the notion that wealthy Republicans are pouring money into the legal slush fund in an attempt to "influence" Trump.

So this is all very interesting, but it's not immediately clear that you can blame the party pissing away nearly $60 million on Trump's personal defenses, scandals and vendettas for its apparent new money woes. It does seem a risky choice, however, for the party to be so freely spending money intended to fight election-related legal issues only months before a presidential election that (shudder) stands a very good chance of being litigated to hell and back, if Trump has his way.

Then again, the lesson of 21st-century America is that the nation’s fabulously rich have, literally, All The Money. There doesn't seem to be any upper limit on how much money fascist-friendly but tax-averse Trump allies are willing to send his way. And as top Republican donors like Louis DeJoy keep demonstrating, don't assume they'll be letting petty things like federal laws block them from giving however much the conservative "movement" needs.

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