Donald Trump’s legal problems could drain the GOP’s finances for the November elections

Former President Donald Trump walks from the courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Feb. 15, 2024
Former President Donald Trump walks from the courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Feb. 15, 2024 Photo: Seth Harrison / USA TODAY NETWORK

With his 88 indictments – down from 91 – Donald Trump is a one-man lawyer employment agency. All those legal bills have to be paid somehow, and Trump has managed to spend at least $100 million in donations from his followers to pay some of his legal costs related to the many jams he gets himself into. Now that Trump has taken over the Republican National Party (RNC) apparatus, he has another steady source of money for his defense fund, at the possible expense of the GOP’s down-ballot election hopes.

Even at his lowest moments, Trump is looking for ways to profit. The sweetheart deal that he worked out with the RNC is a prime example. In many ways, the deal is hardly a surprise. After all, with the ouster of Ronna McDaniel as party chair, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump is now one of the co-chairs of the RNC. (The other, Michael Whatley, is head of the North Carolina GOP and a close ally of Trump.)

What is surprising is how much the deal benefits Trump at the expense of everyone else. Well, maybe not that surprising. Under the deal, people contributing to Trump’s presidential campaign will be sending money to the PAC that has been paying Trump’s legal expenses before they send it to the RNC.

Here’s how it works. Because donors max out at a relatively low amount – $6,600 – anyone attending a fundraiser for the Trump 47 campaign will be forking over a lot of money to go to other causes. But second in line is Trump’s Save America PAC, which will get $5,000, the maximum donation allowed by law. So far, 85 percent of the money Save America PAC has raised has gone to Trump’s legal fees. After that comes the RNC, which, is line for $413,000, followed by state and local parties.

By itself, $5,000 doesn’t seem like a lot. But look at it this way: not everyone is a millionaire, even in the GOP. Someone giving Trump’s campaign $10,000 will be giving the RNC exactly zero. Even if the donation is $20,000 more than that, the RNC is getting shortchanged by $5,000.

In an election year with battleground races in multiple states, the RNC needs all the money it can get its hands on. Instead, it’s being turned into an ATM for Trump’s legal fees.

This Trump-favoring change comes at a time when the RNC is desperate for cash. In January, the Democratic National Committee had nearly three times the amount of cash on hand than the RNC. Last year was its worst fundraising year in a decade.

Meanwhile, now that they’re in charge, Trump’s lackeys are systematically reconfiguring the RNC so that it’s a Trump-only operation. The data and communications teams were shown the door in an effort to eliminate any of the remaining establishment Republicans who may be lurking.

“There won’t be an RNC operation to help the greater party. They don’t care about the greater party,” a former RNC official told the Washington Post. “The RNC is important to lots of people in down-ballot elections. They’re cutting off any service that doesn’t provide help to anyone but Donald Trump. It’s just all about Trump.”

Of course, what did they expect? Trump couldn’t care less about the rest of the party. If Republican Senate and Congressional candidates fail, that’s on them, not him.

But his egotism does help the Democrats in other races. He’s starving the party of cash for everyone except himself. He keeps throwing his support behind candidates who have little appeal outside of MAGA-land. Trump would be nothing more than a bumbling idiot if he and everything he represents weren’t such a threat.

As clever as Trump’s deal with the RNC is, it’s still a drop in the bucket. The latest projections are that, given the rate he’s racking up lawyers’ fees, Trump will be out of money for his legal defense by July – just in time for the Republican convention.

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