During the 2016 election, one of the sleazier aspects of Donald Trump’s business practices came to light: Trump and his companies are known to renege on contracts, bad mouth contractors’ work, and even withhold payment entirely, which has led to an untold number of lawsuits. This management style has reportedly followed Trump to the White House as the Trump Campaign appears to be avoiding paying legal fees.
According to Politico, records show that the Trump campaign is “spending heavily” on its defense in several ongoing civil suits for a variety of offenses, including alleged assault, incitement, and threats made by Trump, his campaign staffers and associates, and Trump supporters. Politico found at least four examples where the campaign hadn’t made a payment to its law firm, paid late, or done so “in tiny amounts that don’t appear commensurate with the amount of work performed by the firms.”
On top of that, the line between Trump’s business and political operations have been muddled by Trump Organization lawyers working with outside firms on cases where the campaign and company are named. The lawsuits cover a wide range of illegal behavior from copyright infringement to a North Carolina campaign director pointing a loaded pistol at another campaign staffer numerous times. Further, Federal Election Commissions reports list over $4 million dollars worth of “legal consulting” and “legal fees” that is believed to consist partially of settlements:
Listing settlement payments as “legal consulting” — as the Trump campaign appears to have done in cases alleging illegal mass texting and copyright infringement, respectively — keeps the public in the dark, argued Brett Kappel, an election law attorney at Akerman who has represented Republicans and Democrats.
“Basically, the Trump campaign was run just like the Trump Organization — lawsuits are met with bluster and invective and then ultimately settled quietly with everyone involved required to sign nondisclosure agreements so that the public would not know that Trump, in fact, does settle many of the lawsuits against him and his family members,” Kappel said.
When asked about a specific case, one lawyer — speaking about Trump’s defense against the “Skittles” photographer — received a payment listed as “legal consulting” by the Trump campaign. The attorney denied ever being retained by or consulting for the campaign, meaning the campaign had settled the suit. In another suit, a firm received more than it invoiced the campaign,and then stopped receiving payment for additional work.