Trump’s Legal Battles Hit His Wallet and Election Bid

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Donald Trump faces four criminal trials amounting to 91 felony counts, and three civil cases. None of this has phased his base as he runs for election. “If he was in jail, I sure would vote for him,” said Ralph Hunter, a South Carolina resident. He told the Big Take DC podcast that while he doesn’t like Trump “as a person,” he was impressed with his presidency.

Trump’s electability is intact – but his finances are another story. Today on the Big Take DC: How Trump’s legal woes are hitting his wallet and his re-election bid.

Listen to the Big Take DC podcast every week.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:

Saleha Mohsin: It’s been about a year since the first indictment was announced against former President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg TV: He's indicted. He's the first former president of the United States to be indicted.

Bloomberg TV: On charges related to hush money payments paid to Stormy Daniels.

Mohsin: It raised a ton of questions.

Bloomberg TV: Does he get his fingerprints? Will there be a mugshot? Is he going to be in handcuffs?

Mohsin: And that was just the beginning.

Bloomberg TV: Breaking news on the indictment of former President Donald Trump—

Bloomberg TV: The case involving the classified documents found at his home in Mar-a-Lago—

Bloomberg TV: Racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, to influence witnesses, perjury—

Bloomberg TV: Conspiracy to obstruct justice—

Bloomberg TV: Several conspiracy charges relating to January 6th…

Mohsin: With his wins on Super Tuesday, Trump is cruising towards the GOP nomination for president. But as he shifts to the general election, he faces a mountain of legal troubles.There are so many trial proceedings and dates… not to mention campaign rallies in an election year… that I often find myself pulling up charts that my colleagues have made just to keep track of it all.

But the logistics are only one of the many unprecedented challenges the former president now faces as he navigates the campaign trail… while on trial.

From Bloomberg’s Washington Bureau, this is the Big Take DC podcast. I’m Saleha Mohsin.

Today, we sift through Bloomberg reporting, interviews with Trump voters, and election data to understand: How is Trump going to balance a general election campaign while facing four criminal trials and untold millions in legal bills? And.. will any of this affect him at the polls?

Let’s cover some basics.

Trump is facing four criminal cases.

The first indictment came about a year ago, when the state of New York charged the former president with falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels.

Bloomberg TV: It is simple: an American president has been indicted for a crime. It is original American history yesterday afternoon.

Mohsin: Then came a federal case in Florida accusing Trump of refusing to return hundreds of classified documents he was keeping at his Mar-a-Lago home.

And then there was arguably the most consequential case… in Washington DC. The January 6th case: accusing Trump of trying to overturn the 2020 election results and inciting the Capitol attack.

And lastly, there’s a state case in Georgia, accusing Trump of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election there.

There have also been three civil trials, and Trump has lost them all.

A fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James over his asset valuations. And then a defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll for comments Trump made after she accused him of sexually assaulting her in the nineties. He plans to appeal both.

Between the four criminal trials, Trump faces a grand total of 91 felony counts. For a while, it looked like the proceedings for many of those cases would fall on top of each other — and land right in the middle of the 2024 campaign.

But that’s started to shift.

Sara Forden: What we're seeing with the legal calendar is that it's actually slowing down.

Mohsin: That’s my colleague Sara Forden. She leads a Bloomberg team covering the legal news coming out of Washington, D.C.

Forden: So I think we're going to have an ebb and flow. Um, the only trial that's actually scheduled to go forward right now is the hush money case in New York, which is due to start March 25th. This is the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, and it's going to be about a month long trial.

It is a criminal trial, so on criminal trials, he does have to be in the courtroom. So we will expect him to be in New York, day in, day out for about a month. Um, so that will certainly affect his movements.

Mohsin: The trial dates for the other three criminal cases are still in flux… and could be pushed back to after election day.

Forden: So there may be, you know, several months over the summer where there's nothing pressing on his legal calendar and he'll have ample time to campaign.

Mohsin: But even if Trump has time to campaign, these legal battles still come with huge price tags… both for his campaign and his personal finances.Forden:. The big one is a case brought by the New York Attorney General. It is a fraud case, accusing him of inflating his assets. He has been issued a verdict in that case of over $400 million. And the interest is accruing on that at a pace of about $112,000 a day.

Mohsin: As in, for every day Trump doesn’t pay the state’s verdict against him, he owes an additional $112,000.

Forden: That combined with a separate verdict in a defamation trial, this is a case brought by the author E. Jean Carroll. So she brought two separate defamation cases against him and won both of those. And that, big verdict in the second case, is $83.3 million.

So he's in the process of appealing those two, but he will have to put that money into escrow, while the appeal process is playing out.

Mohsin: Sara, what does it mean that he needs to put money in escrow?

Forden: If he ultimately loses these verdicts on appeal, he will have to pay that money. And the way the process works, they don't wait for him to pay until the end of the process. It means he has to set aside this money, so that it's already in, like a custodial account.

Mohsin: So with verdicts in just two of his cases, Trump already owes over $500 million—and that number is climbing by the day.

These are civil cases brought against Trump as a private citizen—so he can’t use campaign funds to pay the damages.

Forden: Adding up the two New York verdicts and the interest, which is occurring at a pace, we're looking at close to $600 million that he's going to have to fork over. That would practically wipe out what he's declared as his liquidity, his cash on hand.

Mohsin: Trump says he has just about $600 million in liquid assets—as in, cash sitting in his bank account.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which also factors in his real estate and business dealings, puts his net worth at over $3 billion. But accessing that money would require liquidating those assets.

Forden: He's already said in some filings that he may have to sell a property in order to cover these costs. And these are costs that he cannot use campaign money to fund.

Mohsin: The hundreds of millions of dollars in damages are only part of what Trump’s court cases are costing him.He also has to pay the lawyers who are defending him. For that, he can use campaign funds—and he has. But any money he puts toward his legal fees will mean less money to spend on the campaign trail.

And the possibility of running out of money part-way through an election year is a huge problem for Trump.

Forden: The last report, he spent nearly three million dollars on legal fees.

Mohsin: Over what period?

Forden: That was just for January.

Mohsin: Coming up: we'll dig into how Trump is trying to offset these costs, and how this is all landing with voters.

We’re back. So far, we’ve broken down the four criminal cases and three civil cases against Trump, how much they’re costing him, and how he’s paying for them.As my colleague Sara Forden mentioned, one of the biggest impacts on Trump is the financial cost of covering damages — and paying for his legal fees.

If you’re running a presidential campaign, you can’t afford to run out of money mid-year. If anything, you want a lot of campaign money ready to go for September and October, when voters are paying the most attention to the race.We’re seeing Trump turn to creative ways to bring cash into his coffers.One of the big ones is turning every indictment into an opportunity to rally his base... and then ask them for money.

Laura Davison: Every time there's a development in one of these cases, you see, some sort of fundraising appeal go out of, you know, ‘the evil Democrats are out to get me, you know, chip in $5, $15, $20, or else you're not going to have a country anymore’ type message.

Mohsin: That’s my colleague Laura Davison. She covers politics at Bloomberg.

We grabbed some of the fundraising texts that she described. Here are a couple, word for word:

[text ping]

Make a contribution to evict Crooked Joe Biden from the White House and save America during this dark chapter in our nation’s history.

[text ping]

We are watching our Republic die before our very eyes. The Biden-appointed Special Counsel has indicted me in yet another witch hunt.

How is that talk resonating with voters?

Davison: We do know that his supporters see these legal woes, you know, as evidence, that Trump is being persecuted. It doesn't really seem to dent their support, they don't see it as a negative. And in fact, they're giving, we know, when indictments came down, you know, millions of dollars came into his coffers. So these things are, are things that are resonating.

Mohsin: And he's used his indictments as a talking point on the campaign trail, like this speech in Iowa in January:

Donald Trump: I got indicted more than the late great gangster. Alphonse Capone. [laughter] You ever hear of Al Capone? Scarface.

Mohsin: Our producer Julia Press spoke with Jesse Stumbaugh, an attendee at the rally who said Trump’s lawsuits didn’t concern him—in fact:

Jesse Stumbaugh: That's one of the reasons why I'm voting for him. If our former president, an American citizen who's a billionaire, is handcuffed by the political system and the justice system, how is a regular citizen like myself ever going to be able to stand up to the government?

Mohsin: Over the last few weeks, my Bloomberg News colleagues have fanned out across the country and talked to Trump supporters about how they’re viewing the cases against the former president.

Bloomberg’s Mike Sasso spoke with James Griffin. He’s a 64 year old from Greenville, South Carolina.

James Griffin: They say he was in fault about them people tearing up the White House. I mean, how can I tell a hundred people to go tear up that store over there? If they do it, it ain't on me. That's in their mind.

Mike Sasso: Okay. And even if he got found guilty, that wouldn't necessarily bother you?

Griffin: No, he's still gonna be my friend.

Mohsin: In another part of South Carolina, reporter Stephanie Lai met Ralph Hunter. He had a different perspective:

Stephanie Lai: The problem that we see President Trump facing now is the fact that there are just so many legal cases against him—

Ralph Hunter: Yes.

Lai: And so, one question that I have for voters is—

Hunter: —if he was in jail, I sure would vote for him.

Saleha Mohsin: He said if Trump was convicted, he’d still vote for him:

Hunter: I'm gonna be honest with you. I don't like him as a person. I don't think he's someone that, you know, I would, I'd want to be friends with or hang out with, you know, he just, he doesn't seem like a nice guy.

Mohsin: But Ralph told her, he was impressed by Trump’s presidency. He said he feels like Trump delivered on some of the things that had been empty promises from other politicians in the past. To Ralph, Trump is a guy who gets stuff done.

Hunter: If I need a plumber for my house, to pipe the crap out of it, I don't necessarily need you to be a nice guy and have wonderful posts on your Facebook account. You know, actually, I don't care what you say, just get the crap pumped out of my house.

Mohsin: And here’s my colleague Stephanie at a Trump event in South Carolina, talking to a teacher named Debbie Sides.

Lai: One interesting thing that we’ve noticed is that every time another one of these indictments comes down, more people are donating to him, or getting involved in the campaign, and I’m curious if that’s something that you have done yourself, you know, either donated after one of these—

Debbie Sides: Yes.

Lai: Really?

Sides: After one of the first indictments I did.

Lai: Wow.

Sides: I mean, $25 but that’s what I could do because I feel like if they go after him, they could go after anybody.

Mohsin: Trump’s single largest day of fundraising for the 2024 election came the week he was arraigned in Manhattan last April. Here’s my colleague Laura Davidson again.

Davison: We do see spikes in giving, you know, every time there was an indictment announced or, particularly the mugshot in the Georgia case. It really went viral on social media. Because it was a, uh, just this visual moment. There was a ton of giving.

Mohsin: In addition to donations, the Trump campaign is looking at other ways of raising cash.

Like marketing new merchandise. A signature cologne…candles…gold sneakers with red soles. Here he is unveiling his $400 shoes — the Trump Never Surrender High Tops — at a sneaker convention in Philadelphia last month.

AP News - Trump: This country's not doing so well. We're gonna turn this country around fast. We're gonna turn it around fast. And we're gonna remember the young people and we're gonna remember SneakerCon, you know that.

Mohsin: But even Trump’s shoes can’t escape the possibility of litigation. People have pointed out that the red bottoms of his sneakers could open him up to a trademark lawsuit…from Christian Louboutin.

The year-ahead for Trump could be heavily defined by the outcome of his pending criminal cases, and how he navigates them financially.He’s also endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to be co-chair of the Republican National Committee.That will be determined in an RNC meeting tomorrow. And she’s said that she would put the full weight of the committee behind paying legal fees in these cases.Those court battles, coupled with his bid to voters as an overall candidate, could spell out a complicated year for the former president.

Davison: The money that he has in his various accounts that is able to pay for legal fees is set to run out sometime around June, July, August, this is right when, um, both his campaign, the Republican National Committee, everyone is going to be in full on election mode, buying a ton of television advertisements, wanting to hold events, um, all across the country, and Trump's going to have to make a decision.

Either does he turn to his donors and say, ‘Hey, can you guys give me more money for my legal fees?’ Does he decide to pay for it himself? Or does he go to the RNC and ask them for money? Um, and the RNC also is having their own cash troubles as well. So this is a, um, really setting up to be a sort of mid-year money fight.

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