Trump alleged co-conspirators by no means bought paid by Trump group
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrive to speak to police gathered at a Fraternal Order of Police lodge during a campaign event in Statesville, North Carolina, Aug. 18, 2016.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Several of the attorneys who spearheaded President Donald Trump’s frenzied effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election tried, and failed, to collect payment for the work they did for Trump’s political operation, according to testimony to congressional investigators and Federal Election Commission records. This is despite the fact that their lawsuits and false claims of election interference helped the Trump campaign and allied committees raise $250 million in the weeks following the November vote, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot said in its final report.
Among them was Trump’s closest ally, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Trump and Giuliani had a handshake agreement that Giuliani and his team would get paid by the Trump political operation for their post-election work, according to Timothy Parlatore, an attorney for longtime Giuliani ally Bernard Kerik.
But the Trump campaign and its affiliated committees ultimately did not honor that pledge, according to campaign finance records. The records show that Giuliani’s companies were only reimbursed for travel and not the $20,000 a day he requested to be paid.
Parlatore also told CNBC that the Giuliani operation was never compensated for its work. According to Parlatore, the failure to pay Giuliani and his team came up last week in a private interview between prosecutors on special counsel Jack Smith’s team and Kerik, a member of Giuliani’s team in late 2020.
“Lawyers and law firms that didn’t do s— were paid lots of money and the people that worked their ass off, got nothing,” Kerik complained in a 2021 tweet.
Bob Costello, Giuliani’s attorney, declined to comment further about the agreement, citing privileged conversations between his client and then-President Trump.
Trump has a long history of not paying his bills. But the revelation that he likely stiffed Giuliani, a longtime friend, is all the more striking given that much of the work Giuliani did for the Trump operation is detailed in a sprawling RICO indictment in Georgia released Monday, in which Giuliani is a co-defendant alongside Trump and 17 other people.
The indictment details trips Giuliani made, phone calls he placed and meetings he attended, all in service of what prosecutors say was a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election.
Criminal or not, what is indisputable is that Giuliani and his team did a lot of legal and PR work for Trump. Over more than two months, Giuliani served as the public face of Trump’s election challenges, which ultimately failed.
Nonetheless, these challenges helped Trump and his allies raise an unprecedented $250 million from small-dollar donors in the weeks following the November election, according to the final congressional report by the House select committee on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The money came in response to countless fundraising appeals that claimed it was needed to fund Trump’s election challenges in court.
Yet instead of paying the lawyers who tried unsuccessfully to overturn his loss, the money went into Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America.
Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:
According to the final report by the House select committee, “After raising $250 million dollars on false voter fraud claims, mostly from small-dollar donors, President Trump did not spend it on fighting an election he knew he lost.” Trump’s entire political network, including his joint fundraising committees, spent over $47 million combined from the start of 2020 through the end of 2021 on legal fees, according to a report by OpenSecrets.
Today, that money raised by Trump’s political operation is instead helping Trump pay his own legal bills in the criminal cases against him. Trump’s Save America PAC spent over $20 million in the first half of the year alone on legal fees as the president faced the first two of his four indictments.
The PAC began the second half of the year with only about $3 million in cash on hand.
Sidney Powell, an attorney later disavowed by the Trump campaign, participates in a news conference with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Giuliani is not the only unindicted co-conspirator in the special counsel’s election case who got stiffed by the Trump operation.
Federal Election Commission records and testimony from the House Jan. 6 select committee hearings reveal that none of the private-sector lawyers identified — but not indicted — in that case got paid for their post-election work: Not Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro or John Eastman.
Giuliani and Eastman wanted a mix of reimbursements and payments, but records show they received virtually none of that money. Powell had to turn to her own law firm to pay her volunteers. All the while, the Trump team raised hundreds of millions of dollars off the false claims of election fraud that Powell and Giuliani promoted on TV and in court.
Chesebro, for his part, told the House committee that the work he did for the Trump team was pro bono.
On Monday, all four lawyers entered a new phase in their legal relationship with Trump, when they were charged alongside him in the Georgia RICO case.
Giuliani, Chesebro, Powell and Eastman were among the more than a dozen other co-defendants in the indictment brought against Trump in Georgia on charges of trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election results in the state and elsewhere.
Giuliani wanted $20,000 a day
Matthew Morgan, an election lawyer for the Trump campaign, recalled to the House select committee in 2022 that Giuliani requested $20,000 a day from the Trump political operation to fight the election results. Working five days a week for two months, November and December 2020, this would have amounted to around $800,000 in legal fees.
But Giuliani never got it. According to federal records, two companies linked to the former New York City mayor got about $100,000 in travel fees and reimbursements from the Trump operation. Kerik’s company saw about $85,000 for travel-related expenses, according to the records. But not a penny more from team Trump for their services.
Eastman wanted refunds and payment
Longtime conservative attorney John Eastman had an alleged role in trying to stall the certification of the 2020 election results.
Attorney John Eastman speaks next to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as Trump supporters gather ahead of the president’s speech to contest the certification by Congress of the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.
Jim Bourg | Reuters
Morgan told the House select committee that when Eastman first officially came on board in December, he did so on a voluntary basis, but he requested that his expenses be reimbursed by Trump’s team.
Federal Election Commission records show that Eastman didn’t directly receive a single reimbursement from Trump’s campaign, despite that agreement.
Shortly after Jan. 6, 2021, Eastman requested payment “for services rendered,” according to Morgan’s testimony to the select committee. Though Morgan did not recall how much Eastman asked for, he said his understanding was that “the services requested was for the totality of all the work he’d done for the campaign.”
Morgan told the committee that he sent the request to another Trump campaign legal advisor, Justin Clark.
FEC records show that no payments were ever made by any of Trump’s committees to Eastman.
Eastman’s attorneys declined to comment.
The fact that neither Giuliani nor Eastman got paid also reflected a deep rift that emerged after the election between top staffers on Trump’s formal campaign and the small band of lawyers pushing fringe theories of how Trump could overturn his loss.
A group of Trump campaign leaders and legal minds, occasionally referred to as “Team Normal,” pushed back against the conspiracy theories being peddled by the outside attorneys.
Ultimately, it was members of “Team Normal” that had a say in the campaign’s purse strings.
Clark later recounted an email he received on Christmas Eve 2020 from Giuliani associates, seeking payment.
“What I make of it is that I think these guys were reporting directly to Mr. Giuliani, and when it came time to get paid, they were looking to me to get money, and I was never in the position to be prepared to just write checks to people ….we’re not just going to set money on fire to do stuff,” Clark told the House committee.
An attorney for Clark declined to comment.
Powell paid staff through her own firm
Sidney Powell is the likely third unnamed co-conspirator in Smith’s federal indictment, according to NBC News. She’s also one of the co-defendants in the Georgia case brought against Trump and his allies.
Powell was one of the leading voices on Fox News shortly after the election, peddling the false claim that voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems were each involved in conspiracies to stop Trump from becoming president.
Both companies have denied the claims and taken Fox to court. This year, Fox settled the Dominion lawsuit, agreeing to pay the voting machine company an unprecedented $787.5 million. The defamation suit levied against Fox by Smartmatic is still open.
Powell later told the House select committee that her firm, Sidney Powell P.C., not the Trump campaign, paid assistants who helped her pursue those claims about the election.
“When money was donated, I wanted to make sure they got paid,” she said in her interview with the House panel. “That’s all I remember about that part. And I paid them.”
FEC records indicate that no payments from Trump and his allies ever went to Powell’s law firm.
But her nonprofit group Defending The Republic raised over $16 million since the November 2020 election, according to the group’s 990 tax forms. The group does not reveal its donors, however, and it’s unclear how much of that money ended up in Powell’s personal coffers.
Powell did not respond to a request for comment.