Opinion | This is where all of Trump’s legal fees are going

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Three times this week, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have launched last-ditch efforts to delay the start of his first criminal trial in New York. They’ve tried to overturn a gag order against him, argued that the publicity surrounding the case will affect jury selection, tried to swap out the judge in the case and stall the start of the trial while those motions are being adjudicated. And those are just the motions they’ve made in one of the four criminal cases Trump is facing.

The flurry of paperwork that’s been filed in the past few weeks helps illuminate how Trump is managing to burn through a mountain of cash. Lawyering is expensive work, and the phalanx of attorneys Trump has drafting briefs and arguing before the bench doesn’t come cheap. Three separate appellate judges quickly shot down three eleventh-hour attempts from Trump to keep his trial from starting Monday. But regardless of the failure rate of Trump’s motions, given how uncertain his legal calendar is between now and Election Day, it seems like filing futile motions has been money well spent.

There’s no one public source tracking all the various delay tactics that Trump has employed to forestall standing trial. In part that’s because those tactics have been used in multiple jurisdictions with justifications that include supposed constitutional shields and evidence-free claims of bias from the prosecutors, judges and, in the case of Monday’s trial, even the venue itself. Thankfully, the team at Lawfare, a project from the Brookings Institution, has been compiling the documents in the New York case, where Trump stands accused of falsifying records to cover up hush money payments before and after the 2016 election.

Trump has two main lawyers on this case: Todd Blanche, who is working with the two other members of his firm, and Susan Necheles, who was once a defense attorney for a mafia underboss. Between them, they’ve filed at least 25 documents with the court since the beginning of the year, according to the Lawfare tally of the docket. These include standard motions, such as a motion to limit what evidence can be presented at trial. There have also been wild swings, including the attorneys’ motion to have the case thrown out based on Trump’s “presidential immunity” theory, on which the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments this month.

Added together, that’s over 500 pages of documents logged with the New York Supreme Court in less than four months. Some of those documents are one-page “pre-motion letters” that Judge Juan Merchan ordered last month, where the lawyers ask his permission to file new motions as the trial approaches. The longest is a 182-page document from Blanche to support the claim that Trump can’t get a fair trial in Manhattan. That total doesn’t include, though, documents related to this week’s spate of filings with the New York appeals court.

The absurdly high amount Trump has been spending on legal fees really begins to make sense when you consider just how many hours are going into preparing this mountain of pretrial filings. Much of the spending has gone through Trump’s Save America political action committee, which has been siphoning off funds from campaign donations and from a joint fund controlled by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. In February, the last month for which there’s Federal Election Commission data for Save America’s spending, the committee doled out $5.6 million (or as The Daily Beast put it, $230,000 per day) on legal fees alone. All told, Trump has spent more than $100 million on lawyers and other legal costs since he left office in 2021, according to a tally from The New York Times.

Blanche launched his firm soon after taking on Trump as a client, and it’s been among the biggest beneficiaries of this largesse, as Blanche is also defending Trump in the federal criminal cases against him in Washington and Florida. Save America transferred more than $3.3 million to the firm between last April and February, according to the FEC. Necheles’ firm has done well for itself too, having brought in over $1.2 million from Save America during that same span. And, again, these numbers don’t include the money Trump has been burning through over the last two months, when the frequency of filings shot up.

What’s truly wild is that Blanche and Necheles aren’t even the ones who’ve earned the most from Trump during these legal battles. That title goes to Chris Kise, who has been working on the Florida federal case as well as the civil case against Trump’s businesses in New York. Lawyers like Kise tend to work on retainer, essentially a down payment on how many billable hours will be worked. Knowing Trump’s reputation for not paying his lawyers, Kise, a former solicitor general for Florida, demanded $3 million upfront. He’s gotten that and then some since then, raking in over $9 million for his firm.

Despite the money Trump has spent, it is all but inevitable at this point that the first ever criminal trial against a former president will begin on Monday. But this case, which is predicted to last at least six weeks, will affect the timing of the other cases that await Trump. Every dollar doled out that helped delay this first trial has been more time that he’s been able to avoid accountability in the subsequent ones. It’s hard to picture how much more he’ll spend between now and November — but given that the vast majority of it seems not to be coming from his own pocket, it’s no wonder it’s a price he’s very willing to pay.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com