How a Pennsylvania city will get Trump to pay 'extraordinary' police costs at MAGA rally
When then-President Donald Trump visited Erie, Pa., five years ago, he racked up a $35,000 city public safety bill at the MAGA rally.
Trump’s campaign never paid it.
This weekend, Trump will be back in town for another rally that'll necessitate a huge police presence. But this time, Erie’s municipal government plans to be more aggressive.
That means billing Trump’s campaign upfront — instead of after the fact — for the July 29 rally taking place at the Erie Insurance Arena. Erie will invoice Trump’s campaign in advance for the overtime costs associated with extra security from the Erie Police Department, the City of Erie told Raw Story in a statement.
“The City has a duty – and will continue – to provide security for our residents, visitors, businesses and anyone who holds a public event in the City, regardless of whether they reimburse the City for unusual coverage costs, or not. But the organizers of any event of the magnitude of Saturday’s planned rally that requires an extraordinary presence of police and/or City workers and services – regardless of the event’s theme, number of attendees or political nature – will be billed by the City in advance,” the City of Erie government said in a statement.
Erie Mayor Joe Schember said on Tuesday that the city is billing Trump again for the upcoming event even though Trump never paid his 2018 bill for $35,129.27 in overtime pay that city workers, including police officers, earned for covering his previous rally.
“I think we have to try,” Schember said in a statement. “We are going to see whether we can get some payment from them in advance this time. It’s important to do this because we’re talking about taxpayer money being used to help make the former president’s visit safer.”
When Trump first didn’t pay his 2018 bill in Erie, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Trump had not only stiffed Erie but also hadn’t paid $841,219 total to various city governments. The campaign’s unpaid bills grew to nearly $2 million by December 2020, Insider reported.
“We believed that the level of security that was required was costly and that it was reasonable for us to be reimbursed given the fact that it was a campaign rally, and the president was also here conducting a high-end fundraiser,” Renée M. Lamis, chief of staff for Schember, told the Center for Public Integrity in 2019.
In recent months, city governments have taken note of Trump’s debts and made strides to ensure Trump pays up front, like in Waco, Texas, where the Trump campaign settled up a $60,714.27 bill for a March rally, or Des Moines where Trump’s campaign signed a contract requiring payment for $12,900 in facility rent, despite the event being canceled for tornadoes in the area.
But some cities are still footing the bill for Trump. Among them: Manchester, N.H., where 35 officers supported a Trump hotel rally on April 27 — clocking in 216.5 hours of overtime that cost an estimated $12,870 — for which the city government covered the costs, according to records obtained by Raw Story.
Chris Carroll, a spokesperson for Erie County, told Raw Story the City of Erie would be providing the vast majority of security for the rally, but the county will still send some deputies from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office to support the event, which won’t be billed to the Trump campaign.
The Erie Insurance Arena where the event will be hosted, as it was in 2018, is an independent venue but considered a county asset, Carroll said.
“My understanding is that they've paid for the facility in the past, and I'm sure that we wouldn't book the facility without getting paid,” Carroll said of the Trump campaign renting out the venue — a cost separate and apart from public safety considerations.
Trump is continuing to have an active campaign schedule despite facing several legal battles, including a federal indictment consisting of 37 felony counts related to the alleged willful retention of classified documents and conspiracy to conceal them. He also faces felony business record falsification charges in New York City stemming from a "hush money" payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Last week, Trump announced he received a letter indicating a grand jury investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Officials in Fulton County, Georgia, are also investigating whether Trump tampered with the results of the state’s 2020 presidential vote.
Trump has made conflicting comments about law enforcement over the years — like in 2020 when he referred to former FBI director James Comey as a "dirty cop," but shortly after portrayed “our great Police" as heroes, according to The New York Times. Last month, Florida's largest police union endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump, whom it supported in 2020.
"The choice for us could not be clearer," it said in backing DeSantis.
The Trump campaign did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Trump’s campaign has previously argued that it’s not responsible for paying public safety-related invoices.
“It is the U.S. Secret Service, not the campaign, which coordinates with local law enforcement. The campaign itself does not contract with local governments for police involvement. All billing inquiries should go to the Secret Service,” Trump’s campaign told the Center for Public Integrity in 2020.
Many other past presidential candidates — from far-right Republican Ted Cruz to far-left Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders — have voluntarily paid public safety bills using campaign money.
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