By Fredreka Schouten, CNN
Donald Trump’s new political committee took in more $30 million in the final weeks of 2020 as he made relentless and baseless claims of voter fraud, new filings show.
And Trump’s Save America political action committee started this year with a substantial $31.1 million in cash reserves, as the former president faces a second impeachment trial in the US Senate and works to cement his standing as an enduring force in Republican politics.
Sunday’s filings offered a snapshot of the continued financial backing from Trump’s loyal supporter base. He formed Save America shortly after losing the election last November. Even as his legal team’s claims of fraud were tossed out in courts around the country, Trump aggressively sought new donations, imploring his contributors to help fund his “election defense.” While his political operation pulled in big sums, the new filings show his campaign spent far more on outreach to his supporters than on court fights.
The first and largest cut of contributions Trump raised after the election went to Save America, a major vehicle for his post-presidential political activity. He can use the leadership PAC to donate to other candidates, as well as fund travel and staffing. Federal rules set few restrictions on leadership PAC spending, which campaign watchdogs warn can become slush funds for politicians.
Save America spent little in the waning weeks of 2020, with a little more than $200,000 going to underwrite merchant fees at the online fundraising platform, WinRed, the filings with the Federal Election Commission show. The filings cover activity between November 24 through December 31.
Trump could face substantial legal expenses in the impeachment trial slated to begin in a little over a week in the Senate. As CNN first reported, Trump suddenly lost his impeachment defense team with the departure of five lawyers over the weekend. By Sunday evening, he had announced two new attorneys, David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr., would oversee his defense.
While Save America spent little in the final weeks of 2020, Trump’s campaign committee racked up millions in expenses. They included more than $4.4 million to roughly two dozen law firms.
But his spending to reach his supporters dwarfed the campaign’s legal payments, the filings show. The Trump campaign’s advertising expenses during the last 39 days of the year included more than $5 million in “placed media,” another $4.5 million for online advertising and $2 million for advertising via text messages — as Trump waged an all-out public relations campaign to claim the election had been stolen.
A CNN tally shows Trump sent more than 600 fundraising emails and more than 220 text messages between Election Night and January 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Millions more dollars could be available to Trump’s political operation as he works to extend his influence over the Republican Party.
His campaign account started January with $10.7 million in remaining cash and a little more than $2.7 million in debts, filings show. The Trump Make America Great Again Committee — a joint fundraising committee that has included the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign and Save America — started the year with more than $59.8 million remaining in its coffers — a chunk of which is destined for Trump’s new PAC. Under the fundraising agreement, Save America receives the first 75% of donations collected through the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
Save America already has become part of Trump’s political infrastructure.
Following a meeting last week with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Save America issued a statement, declaring “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”
The PAC also commissioned and released a poll on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s reelection prospects as part of an effort to pay back the Republican for voting to impeach Trump, and to issue a warning to other Republicans not to run afoul of the former president.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report.