Top allies of Donald Trump are putting together a legal fund to support rally organizers who’ve been subpoenaed as part of Congress’ investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to multiple people familiar with the effort.
The legal fund demonstrates how wealthy and powerful people within Trump’s inner circle are looking out for the president’s former aides who are being investigated for their role in planning a large Jan. 6 demonstration at the White House Ellipse.
According to multiple sources, Matt and Mercedes Schlapp have created a legal fund to pay for the defense of several people who have been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 select committee. The money would pay for counsel from the law firm of former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker.
“Matt Schlapp, Mercedes Schlapp, and Matt Whitaker offered to pay for everyone’s legal fees except” for two people under subpoena, according to an attorney familiar with the legal fund. “They’re doing it all through Whitaker’s firm in Kansas City.”
Whitaker is currently of counsel at the firm of Graves Garrett in Kansas City, Missouri. An attorney working on matters related to the House investigation says Whitaker is “supervising” two other lawyers from the firm, Paul Brothers and Todd Graves, in their defense of the rally organizers. The attorney who spoke with Rolling Stone did so on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.
The fund will not help the hundreds of Trump supporters who have been charged with storming the building. Trump, who previously called on his supporters to come to Washington that day to protest the certification of his loss to President Joe Biden, spoke on stage at that rally and encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol. Some in the crowd began walking the mile and a half to the Capitol dome as Trump spoke and the barricades were breached minutes before the former president concluded his remarks.
The existence of the arrangement is additionally corroborated by text messages viewed by Rolling Stone that describe the Schlapps’ “legal fund” and comments from a Jan. 6 rally organizer on a recent conservative podcast.
The Schlapps referred Rolling Stone to a spokesperson who provided a statement indicating the rally planners are being represented through a “First Amendment Fund” set up by the American Conservative Union. Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the ACU. According to the statement, that fund is designed to “ensure Conservatism remains vibrant despite woke warriors in government who overreach and abuse the people they’re supposed to serve.”
Whitaker, Brothers, and Graves all did not respond to requests for comment about the fund. Spokespeople for the House select committee declined to comment.
The Schlapps and Whitaker are highly connected in elite Republican circles. Mercedes Schlapp served as director of strategic communications in Trump’s White House. Matt, her husband, is chairman of the highly influential Conservative Political Action Coalition. Whitaker was acting attorney general for just over three months from November 2018 until February of the following year.
The attorney working on matters related to the investigation says the fund was being organized by loyalists to the former president because “it shows fealty to Trump.” Based on conversations the Graves Garrett team had with other people involved in the investigation, the attorney who spoke with Rolling Stone and was privy to these discussions says it was clear the lawyers on that team wanted to learn about the broader progress of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack.
“They wanted to know shit,” the attorney says.
The sources said Schlapps’ fund is paying for legal help for several Trumpworld figures whom Congress subpoenaed on Sept. 29 along with what the committee described as a group of “individuals tied to the events and rallies leading up to the January 6th insurrection,” including former Trump aides who were listed on permit paperwork for the Ellipse rally. The four individuals who were part of this group and are being represented by the fund include; Maggie Mulvaney, a former Trump campaign worker who’s also the niece of former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; Tim Unes, who worked with Trump’s campaign and now runs an event management firm called Event Strategies Inc.; Justin Caporale, Unes’ partner at Event Strategies who formerly worked in Trump’s White House as a lead advance representative; and Megan Powers, a political consultant and erstwhile Trump campaign aide.
Caporale told Rolling Stone he had “zero comment” about the defense fund. Mulvaney and Powers did not respond to requests for comment. Unes declined to comment about the fund or investigation: “You know on this one we’re just going to not talk about anything until it’s over. We’re pretty confident that we were just the production guys and, you know, eventually the committee will move on to somebody else,” Unes said in a brief phone call. “ I don’t want to get into any of it. I’m not really concerned, but I’m also not used to this sort of thing.”
Not all of the rally organizers subpoenaed by the House special committee that day are included in the legal fund. Caroline Wren, a Trump fundraiser, and Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign spokesperson, are not being represented by Graves Garrett, according to multiple sources. Wren and Pierson did not respond to requests for comment. Also not under the fund’s umbrella is former White House staffer Hannah Salem, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Along with the former Trump campaign aides subpoenaed on Sept. 29, the committee issued subpoenas to activists and a security contractor who were involved in organizing the Ellipse rally. One of those activists, Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the pro-Trump group Women For America First, discussed the legal fund in an interview on a conservative podcast that was released on Monday. In that conversation, Kremer indicated she was receiving no support from Trumpworld as she solicited donations to fund her defense.
“Honestly, we’ve got no support. I have not heard from the president since January, since I saw him on January 6. They are not helping us or assisting us with our legal bills,” Kremer said, adding, “There were a number of their team members subpoenaed on the same day. … From my understanding, they’ve started a legal defense fund for them.”
The Schlapps’ fund will not be extended to the hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and are now under investigation by the FBI. That investigation, which is the largest in the bureau’s history, has led to charges against over 600 people. Thus far, the FBI investigation has focused on the rank-and-file Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol building while the House select committee has examined the organization of the former president’s efforts to challenge the election.
The attorney offers a succinct response when asked if the legal fund established by the Trump allies is helping any of the ex-president’s supporters who broke into the halls of Congress.
“Oh fuck no,” the attorney says. “Their fund is to defend the people that put on the Trump rally.”