MANDEL NGAN/Getty, Fayethequeen/Getty, Tyler Le/BI
Donald Trump spent $52,431,858 on legal fees in 2023 using PAC funds, a Business Insider analysis found.The vast majority — nearly $40 million — went to law firms working on his personal legal problems.Trump spent this small fortune in donor money on his legal fees despite being a billionaire.
Former President Donald Trump has a lot of legal problems.
So do his company and three eldest children.
Often, political donors are footing the bill.
A Business Insider analysis has found that Trump supporters funded at least $52,431,858 in legal services in 2023 through two political action committees the GOP frontrunner controls.
Nearly $40 million of the $52.4 million in donor money was spent on law firms working on cases that had nothing to do with Trump’s candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, the analysis found.
The legions of MAGA faithful may not have been aware of this when they parted with their small-dollar donations last year, galvanized by Trump’s cries of “witch hunt” as he was indicted in a New York hush-money scheme in April and a Georgia election-interference case in August.
But significant portions of their donations went to law firms defending Trump in civil cases involving his real-estate empire and its top executives, including Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump.
The former president’s legal expenses form the vast majority of 2023 disbursements from the two fundraising entities, the Save America PAC and Make America Great Again PAC.
Together, the two PACs spent $71,433,368 on all disbursements last year. They raised a total of $64,565,815 in 2023, Federal Election Commission filings show.
The FEC disclosures did not specify the work for which each law firm was paid. Because several law firms worked on multiple cases, and because it’s unclear whether other sources paid the firms for their work on Trump’s legal problems, BI could not get a breakdown of how much was spent on each particular case.
The vast majority of the legal spending, however, appears to be on cases that were personal in nature.
Only about $861,000 was spent on law firms working exclusively on political issues. Another $3 million was spent on firms involved in both personal and political cases.
BI conducted this analysis by examining FEC filings that disclosed spending on law firms, individual lawyers, and entities specializing in legal-work services, such as compliance and litigation technology. We also reviewed court dockets involving Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump’s family members to see which lawyers represented them in different cases. To fill out our database, we looked at reports from other media outlets, including litigation trackers from Lawfare and Just Security, as well as news stories from Politico, Reuters, The Daily Beast, Above the Law, and Law360. Where there were gaps, we contacted law firms and individual lawyers who received money from the PACs.
You can see the full table with the total payments to each law firm in 2023, along with which cases they worked on, at the bottom of this article.
Trump has claimed that all the lawsuits and indictments against him are part of a politically motivated “witch hunt,” even as judges and jurors have handed him losses in some of them. For this analysis, BI categorized legal work related to his role as a politician running for office — such as ballot-access issues and lawsuits over whether Trump should be disqualified from state ballots because of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, along with legal work related to the House-committee investigation of January 6, 2021 — as political in nature. We categorized other litigation as personal in nature, including his criminal indictments over his attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election to stay in power, his keeping of classified documents after he left the office of the presidency, and the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, as well as civil sexual abuse and defamation civil lawsuits from E. Jean Carroll, the Trump Organization’s finances, copyright infringement, and lawsuits against his perceived political enemies.
From the known data, Trump spent over $14 million on firms working exclusively on criminal cases, nearly $19 million on lawyers working exclusively on civil matters, and about $7 million for representation in both criminal and civil cases.
Trump has his favorite law firms
The analysis shows that Trump has several go-to firms, which his donors have paid handsomely.
The firm that received the most money from the former president’s donors in 2023 was Robert & Robert, which collected nearly $5.3 million from the Save America PAC. It was involved entirely in legal cases for Trump’s personal problems.
One of its namesake leaders, Clifford S. Robert, was deeply involved in Trump’s defense in the three-month trial last year for the New York attorney general’s fraud lawsuit against the Trump Organization, Trump himself, his three eldest children, and other company executives. At the trial, Robert represented the interests of Trump’s two eldest sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who worked at the company. A decision in that case is expected to come later in February.
Robert was also involved in two other major Trump cases in 2023.
One lawsuit concerned legal bills for Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, that he alleged went unpaid. It was settled just before trial in July. The other regarded Trump’s involvement in a multilevel-marketing company, which was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons in January.
Ivanka Trump was dropped as a defendant in the New York attorney general’s lawsuit in the middle of 2023. Two firms exclusively representing her — Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick — were also generously paid. They collectively received more than $2.3 million from donors to her father’s PACs in 2023.
Last year, Trump’s PACs paid more than $4 million to Habba Madaio & Associates, run by Alina Habba (who serves as the general counsel for the Save America PAC) and Michael Madaio. Trump has used them to attack some of his political enemies, such as in a lawsuit filed against his former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, former FBI Director James Comey, and others Trump falsely accused of colluding with each other to rig the 2016 election, which Trump won. A judge tossed that lawsuit, sanctioned the lawyers involved in the case, and fined them nearly $1 million (an appeal is pending).
Habba and Madaio have also led a lawsuit against The New York Times and Mary Trump, Trump’s niece, over the publication of Trump’s tax records. A judge has dismissed the claims against the Times and told Trump to pay the company about $400,000 in legal fees, but the claims against Mary Trump remain pending.
The law firm has also been involved in some of Trump’s other personal lawsuits, including the New York attorney general’s case and two trials related to the sexual-abuse and defamation claims from Carroll, an advice columnist. A federal jury in Manhattan found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in the first trial, held in May 2023. The second Carroll trial — which resulted in an $83.3 million jury judgment against Trump — was held in January of this year, and it’s not clear whether the 2023 disbursements accounted for payments for that trial. (Joe Tacopina and Chad Seigel, whose firm received nearly $1.8 million from Trump’s PACs last year, led the defense in the first Carroll trial — and also participated in his defense for the Manhattan criminal case — but withdrew from representing the ex-president before the second trial.)
Trump also spent donor money heavily (nearly $4.5 million) on Christopher Kise, a former Florida solicitor general who was one of the most aggressive lawyers in the Trump Organization’s fraud trial last year and is working on the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Another top recipient of PAC money, Continental LLP (also $4.5 million), employs Jesus M. Suarez and at least two other attorneys in the court records who were deeply involved in the fraud-trial defense. Nearly $1 million went to Eli Bartov, an expert witness who testified on Trump’s behalf and made $22.50 a minute.
Alina Habba, center, a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump and a senior advisor at MAGA, Inc, arrives at Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. A New York grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump over a hush money payment to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as law enforcement officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of an indictment.
AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
Outside the fraud trial, the firm Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White received over $2.6 million. It employs Evan Corcoran, an attorney who was forced to testify to a grand jury for the documents case and worked on the Washington, DC, election-interference case.
Trump also hired Todd Blanche, whose firm received more than $2.3 million last year, as one of his go-to lawyers for criminal cases. A former Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft partner, Blanche is Trump’s defense in District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Manhattan criminal case alleging Trump falsified business documents to illegally disguise hush-money payments made to Daniels, the adult-film actor who says she had an affair with Trump, before the 2016 election. Susan Necheles, another defense-team member, received nearly $1 million from the PACs last year and represented the Trump Organization in its own criminal trial in 2022.
John Lauro, who’s working on the Washington election-interference case, is another top-paid lawyer, receiving more than $2.6 million in PAC money last year. Trump’s election-interference criminal case in Fulton County, Georgia, is defended by a team that includes Steven H. Sadow (over $1.5 million), Drew Findling (his firm got nearly $1.2 million), and Jennifer Little (over $600,000).
The Binnall Law Group, led by Jesse R. Binnall, an attorney who frequently defends Trump on social media, received over $2 million in 2023. By sheer volume, it’s worked on more cases than any other law firm Trump employs — including Washington civil lawsuits alleging Trump illegally stoked the Capitol riot — but many of them are not as far along as some of the more high-profile cases.
Two lawyers, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, stopped representing Trump shortly after his second of four indictments. They were still paid handsomely. Trusty’s firm, Ifrah Law, received more than $723,000. Rowley’s firm, SECIL Law, got nearly $366,000, and another $35,000 through his firm JPRowley Law.
Trump at the defense table at his New York fraud trial, flanked by his attorneys Christopher Kise, left, Habba, and Robert.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Pool/Getty Images
Trump also spent millions of dollars of his donors’ money on law firms representing codefendants and witnesses in his criminal and civil cases. In 2023, nearly $345,000 went to Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, which represented Allen Weisselberg, the former Trump Organization chief financial officer who was convicted in a criminal trial in 2022. Weisselberg also testified in the 2023 civil fraud trial and may soon face more charges over accusations that he perjured himself on the witness stand. Another $44,514 went to ArentFox Schiff, a law firm representing Jeff McConney, another Trump Organization executive who testified in the civil trial.
Stanley Woodward and Stanley Brand of Brand Woodward Law, which received $511,456, represent Trump’s codefendant Waltine Nauta in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and have also represented Trump’s affiliates in the proceedings of the January 6 House committee. Trump’s other codefendant in the classified-documents case, Carlos de Oliveira, is represented by John S. Irving of Earth & Water Law, which got $168,474 in donor money last year. Boris Epshteyn and Kenneth Chesebro are among the other Trump affiliates whose law firms were paid with PAC funds in 2023.
Some of the firms that Trump’s PACs paid have appeared further afield in MAGAworld. Troutman Pepper, which represented Ivanka Trump in the civil fraud lawsuit, also works with Newsmax in defamation lawsuits over 2020 election conspiracy theories. Harmeet Dhillon’s law firm — working on Trump’s legal defense in the hush-money criminal case in New York and election litigation across the country — is deeply embedded within the conservative movement, and Dhillon recently mounted a challenge to lead the Republican National Committee.
Aside from law firms involved in litigation, the top recipient of legal expenses from the Save America and MAGA PACs is Red Curve Solutions, which collected more than $4.5 million. Led by Bradley T. Crate, who serves as treasurer for both PACs, the company handles accounting and compliance for political groups. Crate didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Overall, the two PACs spent just under $5.4 million on law firms and vendors specializing in things such as litigation technology, compliance, and financial management.
Other people’s money
BI could not identify the work done by 21 of the 74 law firms and lawyers that received funds. We reached out to all of them. Some did not respond to requests for comment, and some did not specify their work for Trump or his election efforts.
Some of those firms had roles in Trump’s many other, older legal sagas. But it’s not clear why they would have received funds in 2023.
The law firm Morvillo Abramowitz, for example, represented David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, during the investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office into hush-money payments for Daniels. It received $7,700 in 2023 from Trump’s PACs. In an email, Elkan Abramowitz, one of the firm’s partners, said the payments were not related to Pecker but declined to comment further.
A spokesperson for Greenberg Traurig, which received nearly $307,000, said the firm “represented witnesses” and declined to elaborate. Ballard Spahr, which represented clients suing Trump’s campaign last year, received over $590,000 in Trump donor money. It’s unclear what those fees were for, and a spokesperson for the firm declined to comment.
Elsewhere Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, which received more than $426,000, previously represented the lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Jones Day, which got $22,000, was instrumental in helping Trump select judicial nominees when he was president. It’s unclear why they would have received payment from Trump donors in 2023. Those firms didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A representative for Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.
Trump in court for his first arraignment on criminal charges related to business records in a hush-money investigation.
Trump founded the Save America PAC shortly after he lost reelection in 2020. He has used it as his primary fundraising vehicle as he runs in the 2024 election, where he remains the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. To solicit money from his supporters, the PAC frequently sends out messages falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen. Because both the Save America PAC and the MAGA PAC are configured as leadership PACs with the FEC, they have wide latitude in how they can spend money.
It’s not clear why Trump uses money from his political donors to pay for his personal legal expenses. He’s worth about $2.6 billion, a September analysis from Forbes found. In a deposition taken for the New York attorney general’s civil fraud lawsuit, Trump suggested his net worth was as much as $14 billion. A January analysis from Bloomberg found he had $600 million in liquid assets.
Trump may not be permitted to use PAC money to pay for any losses in court, though the FEC commissioners — half of whom are Republicans — have hesitated to enforce the agency’s limits on spending.
For the $5 million in sexual-abuse and defamation damages owed to Carroll for the loss in his 2023 trial, Trump took money from his real-estate company and gave it to himself, according to court filings. He then transferred the cash to a court-controlled account, where it must remain as he appeals the verdict.
He must soon pay another $83.3 million for the second Carroll trial — which far exceeds his PAC coffers — and may need to put up hundreds of millions of dollars more once the judge who oversaw his civil fraud trial issues a judgment. In all those cases, he must put up the money as a bond or in escrow as he pursues appeals, which could take years to resolve.
The PAC spending on legal fees in 2023 far exceeded previous years. In 2021 and 2022 combined, Trump spent $16 million on legal fees through the Save America PAC.
Trump is poised to spend even more money on legal expenses this year. He already went through a grueling two-week trial in January to determine damages for defaming Carroll. In March, he’s expected to sit for his first criminal trial, over the Manhattan district attorney’s indictment over the payments to Daniels. Three more criminal cases are to follow.
And then there’s the race for the presidency, which Trump hopes to recapture. He might want to spend money on that, too.