Trump PAC spent millions on legal bills this year as his charges mount

A Trump campaign spokesperson said the funds were to fight DOJ "weaponization."

As legal challenges mount on former President Donald Trump, a political committee run by the former president's team reported $21.6 million in legal spending out of the committee's $30 million total spending in the first half of 2023, a new disclosure filing released on Monday shows.

The committee, dubbed Save America and set up as a leadership PAC for Trump immediately after the 2020 election, has been covering legal bills for former president, his advisers and others, sources familiar with the matter have told ABC News.

The mounting costs come as Trump faces mounting legal troubles, including a superseding indictment handed up from a federal grand jury via special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into Trump's allegedly improper retention of classified documents after leaving office.

The superseding indictment, released publicly last week, charges Trump and two others -- Carlos De Oliveira, head of maintenance at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, and Trump aide Walt Nauta -- with two obstruction counts based on allegations that the defendants attempted to delete surveillance video footage at Mar-a-Lago in the summer of 2022.

According to the filing, nine of 10 top vendors paid by the PAC in the first half of this year were law firms representing Trump and his advisers.

Among the highest-paid firms were Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White, LLC, which was paid $2.2 million, Chris Kise & Associates, P.A., paid $2.1 million, and Continental PLLC, paid $1.9 million, Tacopina, Siegel & Deoreo, paid $1.8 million, and Habba Madaio & Associates, paid $1.5 million.

Amid the mounting legal fees, Save America reported getting $12 million in refund of contribution from a super PAC supporting Trump, Make America Great Again Inc., while transferring $5.8 million to a PAC that used to be Trump's old presidential campaign committee during the 2016 and 2020 cycles.

PHOTO: In this July 29, 2023, file photo, former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts as he holds a campaign rally in Erie, Pa.
In this July 29, 2023, file photo, former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts as he holds a campaign rally in Erie, Pa.
Lindsay Dedario/Reuters, FILE

Trump previously faced a sweeping, 37-count federal indictment to which he pleaded not guilty. Nauta, who was also previously charged, also pleaded not guilty. Neither of them has pleaded to the new charges yet.

De Oliveira is set to appear in court on Monday.

Trump separately faces a 34-count indictment in New York state court, out of Manhattan, related to hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

He is also a target of Smith's investigation into the events around Jan. 6 and his push to overturn his 2020 election loss.

He has denied wrongdoing and repeatedly claimed political persecution. At a campaign stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, he said, "These are ridiculous indictments and all they're doing is hoping for massive election interference."

Trump and his allies have consistently pushed supporters to donate to Save America, often using false claims about the 2020 election and soliciting donations to rebuke the multiple investigations into the former president, his business dealings and his actions on Jan. 6.

The leadership PAC has, in the past, reported raking in tens of millions of dollars and has helped cover legal bills for either Trump or his allies.

In a statement, a Trump campaign spokesperson argued that the payments were necessary.

"The weaponized Department of Justice has continued to go after innocent Americans because they worked for President Trump and they know they have no legitimate case," the spokesperson said. "In order to combat these heinous actions by Joe Biden's cronies and to protect these innocent people from financial ruin and prevent their lives from being completely destroyed, the leadership PAC contributed to their legal fees to ensure they have representation against unlawful harassment."

Smith, the independent prosecutor probing Trump, has defended his work.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is the most popular challenger to Trump in the Republican primary, though he notably trails in early polls, criticized the PAC's spending on Trump's bills rather than on Democrats.

"Trump has spent over $60 million this year on two things: falsely attacking Ron DeSantis and paying his own legal fees, not a cent on defeating Joe Biden," DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romero said in a statement. "Governor DeSantis' sole focus, by contrast, has been campaigning for this country's future, defeating Biden, and reversing the decline of America."

In response, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said, in part, "Only desperate idiots and un-American morons would take the position the DeSantis team has taken."

The war of words continued on Sunday afternoon as DeSantis told ABC News in New Hampshire, pushing back on Trump, "If he drained the swamp like he promised, you know, he probably wouldn't be in the mess that he's in right now."

ABC News' Hannah Demissie, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story reported that sources told ABC News the Trump PAC Save America had paid over $40 million, in the first half of this year, in legal spending for the former president and his allies -- a figure that was confirmed by the Trump campaign on Sunday. Based on a Federal Election Commission filing released Monday, the Save America PAC reported paying out $21.6 million, in the first half of this year, for legal spending incurred by Trump and his allies, a figure that is now reflected in the story.

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