Two weeks after former President Donald Trump left office, his new leadership PAC is already dodging its first subpoena, Salon has learned. The PAC, Save America, refused to respond to an attorney's questions about whether former Trump campaign strategist Jason Miller, who now identifies himself as a senior adviser to Trump while claiming to be unemployed, is on its payroll. Instead, the PAC passed the matter along to Miller's personal attorney, who says he accepted the responsibility without knowing why. Unpaid legal work for a political committee is considered an in-kind donation, and must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
The subpoena came up last week in an email sent by a lawyer representing AJ Delgado, a former official in Trump's 2016 campaign and the mother of Miller's child, who has battled Miller in family court for child support over the past two years. Miller, who is married to another woman, has repeatedly ducked payments and misleadingly characterized his monthly income, attempting to conceal his $35,000 monthly campaign payouts from federal regulators, as Salon first reported.
In the email, which was obtained by Salon, Delgado's attorney asked Bradley Crate, treasurer for both the Trump campaign and the Save America PAC, whether the PAC had a current or future relationship with Miller, who claimed in a December court filing that he would be unemployed before the end of 2020. If no such relationship exists, the attorney said, then there were no further concerns. But if there is a relationship, Delgado's attorney said, then she intended to subpoena Save America in order to get a better picture of Miller's finances.
The reply, however, came not from Save America but from Miller's personal attorney, Sandy Fox, who claimed, in an email, obtained by Salon, that "Save America PAC has authorized me to accept service of the subpoena. Therefore, please send me the subpoena." That response would seem to imply that the PAC either has some contractual agreement with Miller or anticipates paying him in the future.
Furthermore, the PAC declined to respond to Delgado's questions directly, and instead chose to contact Miller's personal attorney, who, like Miller, has no known relationship with the PAC. In response to questions from Salon, Fox explained by email: "Many times third parties, both individually and corporate, will agree for an attorney to accept service of process."
That response appears to elide or evade the core issue. Multiple contract law experts told Salon that Save America's move to deputize Miller's personal attorney to handle the PAC's subpoena was unusual, and raises questions about its affiliation with Trump's top 2020 strategist.
"That would be weird unless Miller has some sort of official tie — as an employee or a contractor — to Save America," one veteran political law attorney told Salon.
Indeed, Fox himself expressed confusion in the email to Salon, writing, "I am not sure why Save America PAC made this request but I was just conveying the message." He did not say why he took on this responsibility, or whether he would be paid. If he performs the service for free, that would qualify as an in-kind donation which must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Miller, who served as an especially aggressive spokesman for Trump in dozens of media appearances before the election, is among the small handful of loyalists who stuck with the outgoing president through his final beleaguered weeks in office, defending the commander in chief after he incited a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a futile effort to cling to power.
Yet even though Miller performed some of the most publicly visible campaign work, neither he nor the campaign have ever disclosed any form of compensation: His $35,000 monthly salary was routed through one of the campaign's media contractors, Jamestown Associates, and marked for "video production." That arrangement prevents the media, regulators or donors from fully understanding how the campaign has spent its money, and at least plausibly appears designed to conceal Miller's true income from Delgado and her attorney.
During the course of a lengthy email exchange between Fox, Delgado's attorney, PAC treasurer Bradley Crate and Salon, Fox (who represents Miller) at one point referred to Delgado and her attorney as "conspiracy theorists," an accusation that Delgado's attorney indicated was defamatory and legally actionable. Crate and Fox both denied that Miller was currently being compensated by Save America, but repeatedly refused to answer questions about Miller's affiliation with the PAC, or about whether future federal filings would show payments to Miller from Save America or the Trump campaign.
Additionally, Fox refused several times to explain how Miller was being compensated for his current work as Trump's spokesperson. He would also not answer Salon's more general questions about how Miller — who claimed $683,660 in income last year — is paid, or why he would volunteer for a potentially lucrative position when he owes child support.
Over a period of several months between 2019 and 2020, Miller avoided making child-support payments to Delgado almost entirely, while simultaneously submitting court filings that showed monthly incomes between $27,000 and $99,000. That income for a time included payments from a consulting firm called Teneo, where Miller collected a $500,000 salary until severing public ties in 2019, reportedly as a result of crass insults he tweeted at Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
During that period, however, Miller paid Delgado as little as $500 a month — one-sixth of what a court had demanded. That was the bare minimum required by the state for a parent who makes $2,300 a month. Miller's financial affidavits make clear that he spends that amount or more every month just on expenses related to his cars.
A top campaign official familiar with the arrangement had previously told Salon that Miller had negotiated both his abundant salary and the unusual third-party payment deal with top campaign officials, and that former White House adviser Jared Kushner had personally signed off on the arrangement. Executives at Jamestown Associates, the media contractor, were initially displeased about being used as a pass-through, according to the official.
Campaign finance experts say the scheme is illegal.
(Notably, the campaign withholds taxes from its salaried employees whereas Miller, as an independent contractor, would have more latitude to estimate his own taxes, which he could argue should not figure into child support payment calculations. Court filings show that Miller claimed liabilities of $250,000 to the IRS and $65,000 to the Commonwealth of Virginia, although it's possible that those amounts are projected taxes owed for the current fiscal year.)
A number of officials distanced themselves from Trump in the months after his election defeat, especially in the flurry of departures following the deadly riot at the Capitol. Others, such as former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and former chief of staff Mark Meadows, have taken private sector jobs. Former campaign manager Bill Stepien launched a political consulting venture with former senior adviser, and the previous campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has rebooted his old consulting firm and launched a new hub for digital campaign services.
But in the two weeks since President Biden took office, Miller appears to be alone in reprising his campaign role, acting as official spokesman for the private citizen who is now posturing as an unofficial president and Republican kingmaker, and now faces an unprecedented second impeachment trial. Miller has made a number of statements on Trump's behalf, most recently in a Fox News op-ed published Thursday, where Miller declared the forthcoming Senate trial unconstitutional, arguing that because Trump is now a private citizen, impeachment is "null and void."
Notably, Miller's article never actually calls Trump the "former president," and instead repeatedly refers to him as if he were still in office, most directly in its first two words: "The president's legal counsel ..." The editor's endnote echoes that language, and further confirms that Miller works for Trump: "Jason Miller serves as a senior advisor to President Donald J. Trump."
Delgado told Salon that she intends to proceed with serving subpoenas on Save America PAC, as well as the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization and American Made Media Consultants — a shell company that the campaign has used to obscure more than $700 million in vendor payments.