Former President Donald Trump has leaned on political action committees to pay his legal bills in Fulton, as well as the ongoing criminal cases in New York, Florida and Washington, D.C.
But for defendants who aren’t personally wealthy or named Trump, that high cost could incentivize them to cooperate with prosecutors or seek outside financial assistance to mount a courtroom defense.
Some have begun pleading online for donations. Others are relying on the Georgia Republican Party — or on Trump and his massive donor base.
Support for Rudy Giuliani
After facing criticism for failing to help his fellow co-defendants, Trump announced he will headline a $100,000-per-plate fundraiser to defray the legal bills of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, his onetime personal lawyer who is now his co-defendant.
News of the event to be held Sept. 7 at Trump’s country club in Bedminster, N.J., comes after days of critical social media comments that the billionaire businessman wasn’t doing enough to help others charged in the racketeering case with the massive price tag of a criminal defense.
Jenna Ellis, one of the 18 people indicted last week alongside Trump, recently took to social media to complain, saying she was “reliably informed Trump isn’t funding any of us who are indicted.”
“I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn’t MAGA, Inc. funding everyone’s defense?” Ellis wrote on X, the platform formerly called Twitter. She has recently drawn blowback from Trump supporters for being critical of the former president and complimentary of his primary rival Ron DeSantis.
Trump has spent at least $25 million through his campaign and associated political committees on legal fees since the start of the year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. That’s nearly half of what they raised during that period. Trump’s committees have paid at least $59.2 million to lawyers since January 2021, the AP reported.
But while Ellis’ break with the former president may have put her low on Trump’s list, his allies and confidantes don’t appear to be doing any better.
So far, Giuliani, who was indicted on 13 counts in Fulton last week, appears to be the only exception. The ties between the two New Yorkers go back decades.
Giuliani had set up a legal defense fund on another crowdfunding site, Fundly, in 2021. But according to reporting by Vanity Fair, the effort drew little interest with Giuliani raising less than $10,000 toward his $5 million goal. The fund is no longer active on the site.
Prior to Trump’s announced fundraiser, Giuliani has publicly acknowledged his struggle to pay legal bills in other cases, which include the defamation suit filed by former Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.
Ellis and “alternate” elector Cathy Latham, have turned to the Christian-based crowdfunding site GiveSendGo for help.
Ellis, her page says, “is being targeted and the government is trying to criminalize the practice of law. Help her fight back and stand for the truth!”
Ellis was indicted on two charges, including racketeering and solicitation of violation of oath by public officer, in conjunction with her testimony before a Georgia Senate committee in Dec. 2020, in which she and other Trump attorneys pushed for lawmakers to appoint an alternate slate of presidential electors.
As of Wednesday morning, she’s raised more than $114,000 from more than 1,450 donors on GiveSendGo.
GiveSendGo advertises itself as a Christian-based fundraising platform “providing hope for people’s spiritual needs,” but it has been criticized by hate monitors for allowing extremists – including white nationalists and neo-Nazis – to raise money on its site.
According to a report released this year by the Anti-Defamation League, GiveSendGo has raised $5.4 million to “extremist-related causes” since 2016. And over the past two and half years, the platform has been the go-to site for defendants charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.
‘I am asking for your help’
For local figures who lack a national profile, it can be even harder to raise money.
Latham, the former head of the Coffee County Republican party, has so far has raised roughly $5,600 out of a $500,000 goal on her GiveSendGo page.
“While you may know me as an alternate elector and former County GAGOP Chair, I am also a retired public school teacher living on a teacher’s pension. I am asking for your help today to help me cover legal fees during this time,” Latham wrote on her page, which also included a personal plea from her daughter.
Latham was indicted on 11 counts, including impersonating a public officer, forgery in the first degree and false statements and writings related to her role as a fake elector. She was also charged on six conspiracy-related counts in conjunction with her presence at the Coffee elections office as a team hired by Trump attorney Sidney Powell copied sensitive elections data.
The Georgia Republican Party previously pledged to cover the legal bills of the “alternate” electors in the Fulton case.
Campaign filings show the state GOP has spent more than $522,000 since the beginning of the year on four firms representing 10 of the 16 electors. (Even though all 16 were previously told by prosecutors that they were investigation “targets,” only three — Latham, state Sen. Shawn Still and former state Republican Party chairman David Shafer — ended up being indicted.)
In addition to lawyers’ fees, defendants must also pony up for bail.
Consent bond orders that have been finalized in recent days have ranged from $10,000 for Still to $200,000 for Trump.
Defendants can bail out of jail by paying cash, working through a professional bonding company or through a jail program that allows them to only pay 10% and some fees.