QAnon supporter pours cash into legal defense fund for Trump allies


A supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory who the Trump campaign distanced itself from in 2020. A real estate developer and Trump mega-donor. A funeral home company.

They were among the top contributors to a legal defense fund set up by allies of Donald J. Trump to help pay people's mounting legal bills related to the various investigations into the former president. The fund is not earmarked for Trump's own bills.

The fund, Patriot Legal Defense Fund Inc., raised a total of $1,624,360 from July through early December, according to documents the group filed with the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday. The group submitted another filing Wednesday that showed zero contributions and expenses. It was not clear why.

The largest donation in IRS documents filed Tuesday ($1 million) was from the Caryn L Hildenbrand Living Trust. Ms. Hildenbrand is also known as Caryn Borland. She and her husband, Michael, donated more than $1 million in campaign-related contributions to Trump's re-election effort in 2020. Their sharing of memes and social media posts about the QAnon conspiracy theory led to Mike Pence , then vice president, to cancel a fundraiser with them. Efforts to locate the couple were unsuccessful.

The conspiracy theory, espoused by a segment of Trump supporters, involves false claims that top Democrats are Satan-worshipping pedophiles and that the former president was recruited to take down the global pedophile cabal. Trump has increasingly nodded to the movement and memes of it in his social media posts.

Tuesday's filing listed just 21 contributors, with a donation of just $60. One $34,000 donation was from Cleveland Funeral Home Inc. Another was from Robert Zarnegin, a wealthy California real estate developer who has been a frequent Trump donor.

Michael Glassner, a former Trump political adviser who is leading the effort, said the group had been “gratified by the initial support” it had received. He said the Justice Department's criminal cases against Trump, which he insisted were politically weaponized, had “required many innocent supporters of President Trump to need lawyers, and the Legal Defense Fund can help them with these costs.”

Kenny Williams, co-owner of the Cleveland funeral home that made the $34,000 donation, said by text message that his associate had a personal relationship with Trump, but declined to answer additional questions about that associate. “We are still behind him!” he wrote about Mr. Trump. “He is a man of his word.”

So far, none of the money has been allocated to people with legal bills, according to the document. The largest expense paid by the defense fund was $18,136 for Trump's exclusive club and residence, Mar-a-Lago. The Florida club hosted a dinner for the defense fund on Nov. 29 that Trump attended.

Most of the money raised appears to have been related to that event.

Another Trump-aligned group, a political action committee called Save America, has spent tens of millions of dollars to help pay the legal fees of the former president and several people connected to the web of investigations and court cases he faces. By the middle of this year, the last time the group had to file with the Federal Election Commission, Save America had spent more than $20 million on legal fees.

The amount was so large that Save America, after sending $60 million to a different outside group supporting Trump's campaign, requested a refund. Save America has been steadily receiving money from that other outside group, the super PAC called MAGA Inc., according to two people familiar with the matter.

The crush of bills, which has increased as Trump prepares for four possible trials in four different jurisdictions after being charged with 91 felonies, has been a source of tension within the former president's orbit. This is especially true because Trump doesn't like spending his own money on lawyers.

kitty bennett contributed to the research.

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