The Republican Party is paying millions for Trump’s legal bills. Here’s why

A year out of office, former President Donald Trump faces a series of investigations looking into his role in the Jan. 6 riot, potential business fraud, and sexual assault allegations. Despite that, and no longer holding office, Trump remains a key figure in the Republican Party. David Farenthold, who covers the Trump family and their businesses for The Washington Post, joins Amna Nawaz with more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A year out of office, former President Trump faces a series of investigations looking into his role in the January 6 riots, potential fraud in his family businesses, and sexual assault allegations.

    Those probes could come to a head in the new year and could impact his political future. Despite that and no longer holding office, Trump remains a key figure in the Republican Party.

    Joining us to discuss Trump's legal battles and his influence on the GOP is David Fahrenthold, who covers the Trump family and their businesses for The Washington Post.

    David, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Always good to have you here.

    Let's start in New York with those two parallel probes, a civil one and a criminal one, looking into the Trump businesses. The civil probe is by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, the criminal one by James and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance.

    Your reporting has found that Mr. Trump's legal bills, up to the tune of $1.6 million, are being paid for by the Republican Party. Is there precedent for that? And what did they tell you about why they are doing that?

  • David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post:

    There is no precedent for this.

    This — just sort of step back and explain why there is no precedent. President — former President Trump is not a Republican candidate. He's not a Republican officeholder. And the investigations he is facing have nothing to do with his time in office. They all predate — they focus on his business in the years before he ran for president. So there is no connection to the Republican Party or Republican officeholders involved here.

    But the Republican Party still is paying this money. And, obviously, Trump has a pot of money in his packet. He has money in his business. He could afford this, but they are paying his bills anyway.

    And what they say, what the Republican Party says, is, well, we see this as a political attack on Trump, a famous Republican. This is Democrats out to get him in New York. And so we're happy to pay his bills.

    What I think is really going on here is that Trump, although he is out of office and is not running, is a linchpin in Republican fund-raising efforts. He is the key to the RNC's fund-raising future. And if he were to turn on them, if he were to leave, if he were to talk bad about them, that could be devastating.

    So they may be paying to sort of keep him in their — to keep themselves in his good graces.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's talk about a couple of these investigations.

    For anyone who hasn't been following along, that civil probe is a fraud investigation, basically, right, that looking into whether or not he overvalued his company's assets to get loans and then undervalued them to pay fewer taxes.

    And he has been called to testify in that in early January. Is there any chance that happens, David?

  • David Fahrenthold:

    There is a chance it happens. I don't think it will happen in a few days, on January 6, because Trump is fighting it on the grounds that — as you said, there's two investigations here.

    He has been called to testify in the civil one, where what is at stake is a potential lawsuit. But he is also being investigated on basically the same issues for a criminal investigation that could end in criminal charges.

    And what he is saying is that, well, look, I have been called to testify about the civil probe, but if I say anything that helps prosecutors, it will be used against me in the criminal probe. So I should — my right against self-incrimination should protect me from this.

    I don't know how a judge is going to view that. But I do think it's not — it's going to take a little while. It's not going to happen January 6.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And what about that criminal probe? What do we know about where that stands?

  • David Fahrenthold:

    Well, people that have been following this might remember, last year, the Manhattan DA indicted Trump's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and two Trump corporate entities, basically for charges of payroll tax fraud, charges they were hiding some of the Trump Organization's payments to its executives from the IRS.

    Trump wasn't charged in that personally. That period of investigation seems to be over. Instead, they have impaneled a new grand jury a few weeks ago, which has maybe five more months to go, if they want it, that's focused on the property valuations you were talking about a moment ago.

    Did he break New York state law by giving wildly different valuations of the same property at the same time to tax officials and to lenders? Is — there's some give some leeway to everybody owns real estate does, but were Trump's examples so outrageous, where the difference is so big, that that amounts to fraud under New York law?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, David, you mentioned he obviously doesn't hold office now.

    He has hinted at a 2024 run. Could any of these investigations or probes impact his political future?

  • David Fahrenthold:

    Certainly.

    I mean, I don't think anybody believes that, even if he were convicted of a low-level felony in New York, that that would mean he would never run or people would never vote for him. Obviously, he's overcome things that would have ended the careers of other politicians, and he has a strong base of support.

    But there may be things that would come out of these investigations or in a potential lawsuit or trial that would change the way people view him. He's also got other investigations focused on his conduct as president, both related to January 6 and the efforts to overturn the election. Those could also damage his political reputation.

    But I think we have watched Trump's career long enough to know that it's really hard to predict how damaging information about Trump, even true revelations about what he did, will affect how people vote — consider him and vote for him.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David Fahrenthold, always has the must-reads in The Washington Post.

    We're going to continue to follow your work and these stories.

    Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

  • David Fahrenthold:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment