Trump PAC has paid nearly half a million to law firms representing allies subpoenaed by the January 6 committee

Former President Donald Trump’s Political Action Committee has paid nearly half a million dollars to several law firms that employ attorneys representing close Trump allies who were targeted by the Jan. 6 committee. investigating the Capitol attack, according to a review of financial records by ABC. News – an arrangement that committee members say raises concerns about the possible coercion of witnesses.

Trump’s Save America PAC began paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to several law firms and lawyers linked to its allies in the committee’s sights after the panel was formed last summer, and continued the payments as the committee’s investigation began issuing subpoenas throughout the year, according to multiple sources and a review of Federal Election Commission records.

ABC News identified payments to at least five law firms linked to attorneys representing Trump allies subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee, totaling $471,000. None of the companies were paid by the PAC before the committee was formed last summer, according to FEC reports. Payments continued until May this year.

While the disclosure reports show Save America’s payments to these companies, the documents do not show which specific attorneys the payments are intended for, or who the companies represent.

The former president’s top allies whose law firms received payments from Trump’s PAC include former White House aides Stephen Bannon and Peter Navarro, as well as his former special assistant Dan Scavino – all of whom have pledged into fierce legal battles with the committee in an effort to block their cooperation.

This week, a member of the Jan. 6 committee suggested that Trump allies might try to coerce committee witnesses into paying their lawyers using money raised from false election claims.

“We talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the former president raised, some of that money is used to pay witness attorneys,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren said on CNN. “And it’s not clear that this arrangement is coercive, potentially, for some of these witnesses.”

In this June 26, 2021, file photo, supporters cheer former President Donald Trump after speaking at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio.

Tony Dejak/AP, FILE

In a statement to ABC News, Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington pushed back against the committee’s suggestion, calling the panel “illegal and illegitimate” and saying the committee “doesn’t have the facts, so at the instead, they traffic in dishonest suggestions knowing that the truth is irrelevant to the fake news media.”

Bannon and Navarro, two of the former president’s staunchest supporters who were both indicted by a federal grand jury for contempt of Congress, were both represented by companies that received Save America PAC money.

The Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Bannon in September 2021, citing “reasons to believe” the former Trump adviser had information regarding the attack on the Capitol. Bannon defied the subpoena and was eventually charged with contempt of Congress in November.

That same month, an attorney named Matthew Evan Corcoran of Silverman Thompson filed a notice to appear on Bannon’s behalf to defend against contempt of Congress charges alongside David Schoen, who represented Trump in his second trial. impeachment, according to court records reviewed by ABC News. Months later, campaign disclosure records show Trump’s PAC made a $50,000 payment to Corcoran’s law firm, Silverman Thompson, in May 2022. It was the first time Save America paid the firm.

Then in June, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was arrested after being charged for his refusal to comply with a January 6 panel subpoena. Navarro, who has been identified as a key player in the former president’s effort to annul the election, represented himself when he was first subpoenaed in February – but at least since the In mid-June, he is represented by attorney John Rowley, whose firm JPRowley Law has received thousands of dollars in payments from Trump’s PAC since the committee was established.

Cleta Mitchell, a conservative lawyer who has also played a key role in Trump’s efforts to retain power, was also represented by Rowley as she worked to defy the committee’s demands for cooperation.

In December 2021, Rowley, on behalf of Mitchell, filed a request to block the committee from obtaining his phone and text records, according to court documents reviewed by ABC News. Mitchell then withdrew the motion and testified before the committee.

Rowley’s company has received a total of $125,000 from Trump’s PAC since November last year. The company was first paid $50,000 on November 29, 2021, two weeks before Mitchell asked to block the committee, and then in May received two more payments totaling $75,000.

Other law firms representing close Trump allies face subpoenas on Jan. 6, including his former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, current spokesman Taylor Budowich and the former commissioner of New York police Bernie Kerik, also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Trump’s PAC, according to financial disclosure documents. Budowich and Scavino still work for Trump.

Scavino, one of Trump’s closest aides, was scorned by the committee after offering limited cooperation with his subpoena. Earlier this month, the Justice Department declined to press charges against him.

PHOTO: In this August 26, 2020, file photo, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino takes the stage to speak inside the empty Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC

In this August 26, 2020, file photo, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino takes the stage to speak inside the empty Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE

“This illegitimate committee is trying to drown innocent Americans in legal fees and murder their character with doctored evidence and dishonest innuendo – that’s the only coercion that’s happening and the media ignores it,” Budowich said in a statement to ABC News. “I will not be intimidated by corrupt politicians trying to destroy our country.”

Budowich attorney Michael Abel, co-founder of Abel Bean Law, said in a statement: “Our firm’s representation of Mr. Budowich is in the public domain. … We categorically reject any claims regarding the alleged coercion of witnesses. It never happened. It would never happen. Never. Nothing so outrageous or unethical was ever mentioned or suggested to us.

Kerik’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore — whose firm, Parlatore Law Group LLP, received $25,000 from Save America PAC for a “legal consultation” on April 22, 2022 — told ABC News that Save America’s payment n wasn’t related to Kerik. A representative for Scavino did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Separately, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson was initially represented by former Trump White House attorney Stefan Passantino, with her legal fees covered by Trump’s Save America PAC, according to a report. source close to the arrangement. But Hutchinson changed lawyers just before giving her bombshell testimony to the committee earlier this week, and is now being represented by a firm unpaid by the former president’s political arm.

Since July 2021, when the Jan. 6 committee was formed, Passantino’s company, Elections LLC — which has long received payments from Trump’s PAC — has received a total of $280,548 from Save America. It’s unclear how much of that amount was for Hutchinson’s legal bills.

Co-founded by Passantino and former Trump deputy campaign manager Justin Clark, Elections LLC was one of the law firms paid not only by Save America, but also by Trump’s former presidential campaign and the National Committee republican.

The former Trump campaign, in particular, paid the company tens of thousands of dollars each month from April 2019 to March this year, for a total of $1.3 million, while Passantino and Clark have assisted Trump’s team with various legal matters, including challenging state votes following the 2020 election.

Trump’s team also referred others to a legal defense fund set up by American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, sources told ABC News.

Schlapp, who created the “America First Fund” and worked with Trump’s team to determine who would receive aid from the fund, said the fund “will not help anyone who agrees with the mission of the committee and help and complicity with the committee.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Jan. 6 committee leaders said they believe some Trump allies they didn’t name tried to intimidate witnesses who are cooperating with the special panel. from the room. Sources told ABC News that Hutchinson was one of the witnesses who told the Jan. 6 committee that she was pressured by Trump allies to protect the former president.

“Most people know that trying to influence witnesses to testify falsely presents very serious concerns,” Rep. Liz Cheney said. “We will discuss these issues in committee and carefully consider our next steps.”

A lightly regulated political action committee, Save America PAC can spend its funds freely as long as its expenses are reported to the FEC, said Brendan Fischer, campaign finance expert and deputy executive director of the watchdog journalism project Documented.

But PAC selectively covering witness legal costs raises ethical concerns, he said, especially when PAC funds are controlled by someone who “arguably has the most at stake in the January investigation.” .

“The greatest ethical concern is that Trump’s PAC will strategically cover legal costs, in order to deter witnesses from cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee or encourage supportive testimony,” Fischer said. “In other words, the concern is that there will be an implicit understanding that Trump’s PAC will only cover the legal costs of those who refuse to fully cooperate with the committee, or that the PAC will refuse to support witnesses. who testify that Trump deems harmful.”

Katherine Faulders of ABC News contributed to this report.

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