HomeTop StoriesCan the RNC Save Trump's Legal Bills? Probably not.

Can the RNC Save Trump’s Legal Bills? Probably not.

NEW YORK – Donald TrumpThe staggering bills have sparked a debate within his party: Should the Republican National Committee help save him?

Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trumpwho has been endorsed by the former president as the new co-chair of the RNC, floated the idea last week — and quickly drew opposition from other party insiders.

But even if the party wanted to write Trump a check, it would face both practical and legal problems: The RNC is strapped for cash, and campaign finance laws limit how it can spend the money it does have.

“I don’t think the authors of the Federal Election Campaign Act envisioned a situation where a national party committee would be asked to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle a candidate’s legal debts,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount . University, wrote in an email.

Yet that is the extent of the debt Trump faces. His bills fall into two categories: the legal fees he owes his lawyers, and the civil judgments the courts have ordered him to pay. His judgments alone now total more than $500 million, following massive verdicts in a business fraud case brought by the New York Attorney General and a defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

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Trump has relied heavily on his political operation, especially his leadership PAC, Save America, to fund his legal defense — to the tune of more than $50 million last year — and he will certainly continue to do so. Individuals can donate up to $5,000 a year to a leadership PAC — but the donation limit is more than eight times that, $41,300, to a national party committee like the RNC.

But federal law limits the RNC’s ability to help, campaign finance experts say.

And the party probably can’t afford to make a meaningful dent in Trump’s bills anyway. The RNC’s cash at the end of January was $8.7 million, a small portion of Trump’s debt.

None of this has stopped Republicans from thinking about the issue.

Lara Trump told reporters that she believes Republicans have a “strong interest” in the party paying her father-in-law’s legal bills, although she added that she is not familiar with the legal restrictions on doing so.

Mississippi Committee member Henry Barbour tries to quash the idea. He introduced a pair of draft resolutions declaring that “spending RNC financial resources on a candidate’s personal, business, or political legal expenses, unrelated to the 2024 election cycle, does not serve the RNC’s primary mission, namely helping to elect our candidates in 2024.”

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Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign who has endorsed Trump as the RNC’s chief operating officer, has repeatedly said the committee will not pay Trump’s legal bills.

Lawyers’ fees

The RNC has a history of helping Trump pay his lawyers: The committee spent nearly $2 million in 2021 and 2022 on two law firms that worked on Trump cases.

But Trump was not an official candidate for office at the time.

According to the Supreme Court in 2010 Citizens united Under the ruling, parties cannot use money raised from companies or unions to pay the legal bills of declared candidates, said Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at NYU Law School.

So once Trump launched his campaign to return to the White House, the RNC stopped paying his attorneys’ fees.

“We cannot pay legal bills for any candidate that is announced,” Ronna McDaniel, the outgoing RNC chair, said in 2022, before Trump announced his bid to return to the White House.

Heavy civil judgments

Trump indicated this week that he does not have enough cash to cover the full amount of his civil judgments. But he probably can’t count on the RNC to help him on that front either.

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According to legal experts, it would be illegal for a political party to issue a legal judgment arising from a person’s personal conduct (as opposed to a judgment related to that person’s conduct as an office holder or candidate).

Issacharoff said the statements against Trump in both the civil fraud trial and the Carroll trial fall into the “personal conduct” category.

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor who specializes in election law at Stetson University’s law school, said there would be a “high risk” that the RNC would violate campaign finance laws if it paid the civil fraud judgment, because that case only involves the Trump’s family. company.

“Those charges arose because he fraudulently ran the Trump Org,” she wrote in an email. “That has nothing to do with the fact that he is a candidate or an office holder.”

And even if we set aside the law, the question is whether the party can pay its bills.

Lara Trump has set a goal of raising $500 million, and even if she succeeds, spending some of those funds on the former president would quickly reduce the party’s ability to pay for anything else. including the presidential election or Congress. breeds.

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