While declining to use his own war chest to cover the sky-high legal bills that some of his current and former aides are facing, Trump’s team has instead been working with American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp to determine which individuals subpoenaed by the select committee should receive help from Schlapp’s “First Amendment Fund,” which is run by the ACU’s nonprofit arm.
Schlapp told CNN that he is “in communication with [Trump’s] team” about who can and cannot take advantage of the legal fund, which he said has raised “over seven figures” from donors. While Schlapp has not yet rejected any requests, he acknowledged that there will likely come a point where he “will have to make choices on who to fund.”
One of the deciding factors could be how an individual who is seeking financial assistance views the committee.
“We are certainly not going to assist anyone who agrees with the mission of the committee and is aiding and abetting the committee,” Schlapp said. He noted that the fund withholds “the right to make decisions over whether someone gets assistance or doesn’t.”
“I am in communication with [Trump’s] team about those decisions,” he said.
Another person familiar with the situation described Trump as “more than aware of this fund,” adding that the former president has been “telling people to take advantage of the Schlapp fund.”
If current or former Trump aides have sought his help, “Susie would have said, ‘Contact Matt,’” this person said, referring to GOP campaign veteran Susie Wiles, who has become Trump’s top lieutenant in Florida. A spokesperson for the former president did not return CNN’s request for comment.
The behind-the-scenes coordination between Trump’s team and Schlapp further illustrates how the former President is helping allies navigate congressional investigators, including by connecting them to relief funds depending on the extent of their cooperation and their loyalty to him. Attorneys for the former President previously urged some of his top aides and allies not to comply with the select committee, arguing in an October letter that they were not obliged to submit records or provide testimony related to January 6 because of “executive and other privileges.”
In the letter to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, for example, Justin Clark, who serves as counsel to Trump, wrote that the panel’s investigation “is merely a partisan attempt to distract from the disastrous Biden administration” and that Trump “vigorously objects to the overbreadth and scope” of its requests. Clark instructed Bannon, who has since been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the committee’s investigation, to not provide testimony or documents to the committee.
One former White House official who testified before the committee following a November subpoena confirmed that he has not received assistance from any legal fund, including the Schlapp-backed reserve.
“I have not taken advantage of ACU, or any organization, covering any legal bills related to the January 6 House Select Committee,” said Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served as former Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.
Schlapp, who would not disclose which or how many Trump officials have turned to him for help covering their legal bills, said only that “many” have made use of the First Amendment fund, which is intended to assist lower-level aides who he believes “are being squeezed to tell dirt on more senior people.”
“Our interest is in helping those who don’t have the financial resources to help themselves, especially those from the Trump administration who are from a younger generation,” Schlapp said.