A legal fund not linked to Q spent $400,000 to defend Trump allies, filing documents

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally on September 25, 2023 in Summerville, South Carolina.

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A fund meant to pay the legal fees of former President Donald Trump’s allies, backed mostly by QAnon supporters, spent nearly $400,000, most of which went to a single law firm, new documents showed Wednesday.

The Patriot Legal Defense Fund received more than $1.5 million between its creation in mid-July and the end of December, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Of the total spent by the group, $221,000 went to Brand Woodward Law, mostly in the form of professional and legal fees.

Another $150,000 from the fund went to the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher for the anonymous purpose of “services rendered,” IRS records show.

The fund was created by Trump campaign adviser Susie Wiles and former campaign aide Michael Glassner to help pay the bills of Trump supporters facing lawsuits stemming from their “participation in the political process,” according to its records.

Of the fund’s 23 contributors, by far the largest contribution came from the Caryn L. Hildenbrand Living Trust, which donated $1 million in mid-November.

The fund is associated with Caryn Borland and her husband, Michael Borland, who together donated more than $1 million to Trump’s 2020 reelection bid, the New York Times reported.

The Borlands have reportedly expressed support for QAnon, the internet-born conspiracy theory involving the belief that Trump and his allies were fighting a behind-the-scenes war against a global sex trafficking ring run by powerful Satan-worshipping cannibal pedophiles .

In 2020, then-Vice President Mike Pence canceled plans to attend a Trump campaign fundraiser hosted by the Borlands in Montana after their connection to QAnon came to light, according to the Associated Press.

When CNBC called a phone number associated with Caryn Borland and asked to speak to her or Michael, a person who answered the phone hung up.

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Caryn Borland is also the largest donor to a separate legal fund that specifically supports Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer who has filed for bankruptcy while facing a $146 million defamation judgment and criminal prosecution. Borland donated $300,000 of the total $727,000 Giuliani raised between August and December, records show.

Stanley Woodward, a partner at Brand Woodward Law, declined to comment on the money paid by the Patriot Legal Defense Fund.

Woodward represents Walt Nauta, a Trump aide and co-defendant in the criminal case centered on the former president’s storage of classified documents at his Palm Beach residence, Mar-a-Lago. Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty to charges in the case.

Woodward also represented more than a half-dozen other people who were questioned by prosecutors in the documents case, NBC News reported.

The lawyer is implicated in so many figures in the documents case that special prosecutor Jack Smith raised questions about whether Woodward’s client’s history constituted a conflict of interest.

Trump’s Save America PAC paid Brand Woodward Law $202,000 in March 2023, according to FEC filings.

Woodward has also represented numerous other people connected to that case, as well as many people connected to the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

The client list also includes several people facing lawsuits stemming from the Jan. 6 riot, such as Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs and her wife Connie Meggs. Kelly Meggs was sentenced in May to 12 years in prison on seditious conspiracy charges.

Woodward also represented Trump White House aide Dan Scavino in connection with a House Select Committee investigation into the January 6 insurrection. Woodward has worked for other January 6 rioters and people in Trump’s orbit, including former adviser Peter Navarro and former congressman Kevin McCarthy.

Spokespeople for Gibson Dunn did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The new information about the Patriot Legal Defense Fund came a day after the Times reported that PACs supporting Trump spent about $50 million on legal fees last year as the former president fought numerous criminal and civil cases.

He will face other daunting legal problems. A jury last week ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million in damages for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll after she came forward to accuse him of raping her in the mid-1990s. That’s on top of the $5 million a separate federal jury awarded Carroll last year in a related sexual assault and defamation case against Trump.

A potentially much larger sum could come in Trump’s civil business fraud case in Manhattan Supreme Court: New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked the judge in that case to order Trump and his co-defendants to pay $370 million dollars in damages.

CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed reporting.

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