WASHINGTON (AP) — Sitting on top of more than $115 million across several political committees, Donald Trump has positioned himself as a uniquely indomitable force in the GOP who would almost certainly have the resources to swamp his rivals if he launched another presidential campaign.
But that massive pile of money is also emerging as a potential vulnerability. His chief fundraising vehicle, Save America PAC, is under new legal scrutiny after the Justice Department issued a round of grand jury subpoenas that sought information about the political action committee's fundraising practices.
The scope of the probe is unclear. Grand jury subpoenas and search warrants issued by the Justice Department in recent days were related to numerous topics, including Trump's PAC, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The subpoenas seek records as well as testimony and ask at least some of the recipients about their knowledge of efforts to engage in election fraud, according to one of the people.
The subpoenas also ask for records of communication with Trump-allied lawyers who supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and plotted to line up fake electors in battleground states. A particular area of focus appears to be on the “Save America Rally” that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the person said.
The investigation is one of several criminal probes Trump currently faces, including scrutiny of how documents with classified markings wound up at the former president's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Regardless of Save America's ultimate role in the investigations, the flurry of developments has drawn attention to the PAC's management, how it has raised money and where those funds have been directed.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich slammed the subpoenas, saying a “weaponized and politicized Justice Department” was “casting a blind net to intimidate and silence Republicans who are fighting for his America First agenda.” Representatives for the Justice Department have declined to comment.
While Trump has more than $115 million held across various committees, the vast majority of it is stored at Save America. The PAC ended July with more than $99 million cash-on-hand, according to fundraising records — more than the Republican and Democratic national campaign committees combined.
Trump has continued to shovel up small-dollar donations in the months since, frustrating other Republicans who have been struggling to raise money ahead of the November midterm elections.
Save America is set up as a “leadership PAC” designed to allow political figures to fundraise for other campaigns. But the groups are often used by would-be candidates to fund political travel, polling and staff as they “test the waters" ahead of potential presidential runs. The accounts can also be used to contribute money to other candidates and party organizations, helping would-be candidates build political capital.
Much of the money Trump has amassed was raised in the days and weeks after the 2020 election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. That’s when Trump supporters were bombarded with a nonstop stream of emails and texts, many containing all-caps lettering and blatant lies about a stolen 2020 election, soliciting cash for an “election defense fund.”
But no such fund ever existed. Instead, Trump has dedicated the money to other uses. He's financed dozens of rallies, paid staff and used the money to travel as he's teased an expected 2024 presidential run.
Other expenses have been more unusual. There was the $1 million donated last year to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit that employs Cleta Mitchell and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, both of whom encouraged Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election.