Real Estate

Trump legal defense fund raised more than $200,000, spent zero on legal work: Reports

Three rich pals of President Donald Trump contributed most of more than $200,000 raised by a legal defense fund set up for White House officials and former campaign aides caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation — but that fund has not spent any money on legal fees, according to reports.

Instead, the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust from the beginning of 2018 through the end of June spent more than $42,000 on “insurance” from an Alabama-based risk management company, and another $6,500 on accounting services from a large accounting firm, according to tax records posted online by The Daily Beast.

Representatives of the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust did not immediately respond to requests from CNBC to discuss the nature of its expenditures, including the question of why it has not spent any of the funds raised on actual legal work.

The fund was created earlier this year “to provide assistance paying legal expenses for persons involved in the investigations by special counsel” Mueller, as well as inquiries by congressional intelligence committees “regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters,” according to the agreement forming the group. Those related matters include a probe of whether members of the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians to meddle in the election.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday noted that around 50 Trump administration employees and ex-campaign staff have been interviewed for those investigations.

Tax records filed by the fund posted Monday by The Daily Beast show that the fund raised $202,532 from January through June.

Geoffrey Palmer, a Los Angeles real estate developer who was one of the biggest donors to Trump during the 2016 election, kicked in the most to the fund: $100,000. Palmer did not respond to a request for comment.

Billionaire casino owner Phillip Ruffin contributed $50,000 to the fund. Ruffin owns the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as well as half of the Trump International Las Vegas Hotel along with Trump.

Michelle Knoll, a spokeswoman for Ruffin, said Ruffin “always supports whatever the Trumps ask him to support.”

“That’s why he made the contribution,” she said.

Knoll said that Ruffin cannot recall as of now who asked him to contribute to the fund, but that it was either the president himself or “it was a member of the Trump family.”

Knoll said she was not aware of reports that the fund had not, as of June, disbursed any money for its ostensible purpose, that is, for legal fees.

But she said Ruffin “trusts the Trumps to make the decisions based on whatever the need is, so he never gets involved with the distribution.”

Continental Resources, the publicly traded oil and natural gas company headed by Trump buddy Harold Hamm, donated another $25,000. Hamm is on the board of the nonprofit group America First Policies, which pushes Trump’s political agenda. Continental Resources did not respond to a request for comment.

Another $22,000 came in contributions from Proactive Communications, a firm headed by Mark Serrano, who has appeared as an advocate for Trump on cable television, and who is spokesman for the legal defense fund. Serrano’s firm did not respond to a request for comment.

The fund had just one other identified donor, Ashley Long, a financial analyst in Virginia who contributed $200. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Petra RMS, a Birmingham, Alabama, risk management company that received more than $42,000 from the fund for insurance, told CNBC: “In February 2018, Petra RMS brokered a standard directors and officers insurance policy. As of June 2018, Petra RMS is no longer the agent of record for this standard insurance policy.”

CliftonLarsonAllen, the accounting firm, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment when CNBC contacted the firm to asked about the $6,500 it received from the fund.


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