Mar-a-Lago member gives $150K to legal defense fund for Trump allies questioned in Mueller probe

Specific beneficiaries of the legal defense fund remain a mystery.

October 15, 2018, 7:47 PM

A Trump campaign donor and Mar-a-Lago member gave $150,000 to a legal defense fund set up to help allies of the president caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, new records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show.

Recycling mogul Anthony Lomangino, who had donated $125,000 to the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, signed the latest big checks to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, which was set up by President Donald Trump’s lawyers in February to provide financial support for legal expenses incurred by any former Trump campaign employees, consultants, fundraisers or volunteers (excluding Trump’s family members) questioned in the ongoing probe.

According to the filing, which appears to list the Patriot Fund's legal expenses for the first time, more than $114,000 went to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP for “legal consulting,” though the document does not indicate which Trump associate the firm is representing. Another $8,400 for “legal consulting” went to Schertler & Onorato, LLP, which has represented former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller.

Lomangino, who co-founded Florida-based Southern Waste System, could not be reached for comment. Neither the Patriot Fund's custodian of records nor its spokesperson responded to ABC News’ requests for comment on who benefited from the Patriot Fund's legal expenses.

Former Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican from New York, is listed as the fund's contact and manager, and according to the fund's organizational agreement filed to the Office of Government Ethics, she has complete discretion over who will receive financial support.

The latest disclosure was made public through a quarterly report filed by the Patriot Fund, which was set up as a 527 political organization required to disclose its donors and expenditures.

This disclosure follows criticism of the fund for lack of transparency after previous filings indicated that the fund did not appear to have spent any money on legal defense despite receiving nearly $200,000 from a handful of Trump campaign donors, including longtime Trump associate Phil Ruffin, Congenital Resources CEO Harold Hamm and Beverly Hills real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer.

The fund had only paid an insurance provider and an accounting firm, the last filings from April and July showed, while the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee helped some Trump associates and family members with legal bills.

According to records filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Trump campaign paid more than $276,000 in legal fees on behalf of Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen between October 2017 and April 2018 and paid nearly $95,000 in legal fees to the law firm that has represented Trump’s former bodyguard Schiller between January 2018 and April 2018.

The RNC, meanwhile, paid $514,000 in legal fees for Donald Trump Jr. in 2017 and in January 2018, and nearly $452,000 to a law firm representing former White House communications director Hope Hicks in April 2018.

According to Jordan Libowitz of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit government watchdog, the continued lack of clarity regarding who receives financial help from the Patriot Fund raises questions about potential conflicts of interest. Those in control of the fund could help only those Trump associates who refuse to cooperate with Mueller, he said, while refusing to help anyone who provided evidence against the campaign.

“There's just so many questions and not much transparency,” Libowitz said.

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