November 23, 2021

Donors to the Republican National Committee (RNC) might believe that their dollars are going to support congressional campaigns in 2022 or creating a war chest for the next GOP presidential candidate in 2024. But a lot of those dollars are being spent right now on something that most contributors might not expect: Donald Trump’s legal costs. Trump, who is neither a holder of any office nor an announced candidate for any race, is collecting six-figure payments from the RNC to cover the cost of legal fees.

That’s a highly unusual, and possibly unique, situation all on its own. However, as The Washington Post reports, the payments being made to Trump aren’t even connected to his ongoing efforts to withhold information from the House Select Committee on Jan. 6. The payments aren’t even in connection to Trump’s long-running effort to block the House Ways and Means Committee’s legal right to see his tax returns. The RNC has actually paid out at least $121,670 to a law firm trying to protect Trump from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James in their criminal investigation of Trump’s financial activities in New York. 

It’s astounding evidence of how the Republican Party currently serves as a front for Trump—and it comes as The Washington Post is also reporting an expansion into the investigation of Trump’s endless grifting.

In 2018, Donald Trump was forced to fold his family foundation for “persistent illegal activity.” Included in that activity was repeated use of the foundation to act as a slush fund for Trump’s legal issues, including paying off a suit related to a lost golf bet. That same foundation was also used as a source of funds for Trump’s campaign, as well as a means of funneling money back to Trump through payments to one of his 500+ companies.

Now it appears that the RNC has replaced the foundation as Trump’s all-purpose source of cash. In an interview with Bloomberg, the attorney involved made it clear he was being paid “to represent Donald Trump,” not in any official capacity, but as an individual. Bloomberg calls these payments “likely legal under FEC precedents.” That’s because while the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has enforced rules against candidates using their own campaign funds for personal expenses, there is no history of such payments coming from a party committee.

The job of that attorney is only getting bigger as it’s now clear Trump is being investigated for one of his most conspicuous abuses of the system: inflating the price of his properties when reporting their worth to obtain loans and investments, then drastically reducing their reported worth when paying his taxes.

In one example cited by the Post, Trump boasted that his 40 Wall Street building was worth $527 million in a presentation to lenders, but told tax officials that the same building was worth $16.7 million—less than the price of a single high-end Manhattan condo. James has reportedly convened a new grand jury to consider criminal charges.

This move doesn’t seem to be a last-minute addition, but a central part of the case that state and and city prosecutors are building against Trump. A great deal of time has been spent examining everything from the history of his various buildings to the geology underlying his golf course to better understand how Trump has gamed the system and prepare for any possible defense.

But making this case may be less cut and dry than it seems. According to experts interviewed by the Post, neither overvaluing nor undervaluing property may be a criminal act. Prosecutors will have to prove that Trump intentionally misrepresented the value in order to charge either bank fraud or tax fraud. That may seem obvious, but making the legal case may require prosecutors to locate a “smoking gun” document from a man who notoriously does not write things down and speaks to his underlings in terms designed to code his intent.

In May, the RNC shelled out $175,000 to rent a meeting room at Mar-a-Lago. They handed over half a million to one of Trump’s bodyguards for “security services.” And the RNC has been forced to return over $120 million to donors after the Trump campaign sent out emails in which the option to turn a campaign donation from a one-time offering into a recurring payment was “pre-checked,” resulting in many Trump followers finding themselves in the hole for thousands when they expected to make a relatively small donation. However, the RNC reports that with the help of Trump, it collected over $136 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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