When former President Donald Trump rallies today in Waco, Texas, under a cloud of legal scandal, he'll do so after his campaign reportedly paid the central Texas city's government more than $60,000 to cover various municipal services, such as public safety costs.
But across the state, in El Paso, city officials there tell Raw Story that they're still waiting for Trump's campaign committee to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills stemming from the former president's February 2019 visit to their border town.
"The Trump campaign has not submitted any payments for their debt," El Paso city spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta confirmed to Raw Story, noting that the current Trump tab is $569,204.63, including a city-issued late fee of $98,787.58.
El Paso is still trying to get Trump to pay up. In late 2020, the El Paso City Council unanimously took action to hire the Law Offices of Snapper L. Carr to "advocate in the City’s interest in the collection of the outstanding invoices," Cruz-Acosta said.
"The city continues to seek the payment of these past due expenses, so city taxpayers do not continue have to bear the cost," she added.
Most of El Paso's Trump-related charges stem from police and fire department expenses, according to a current City of El Paso invoice obtained by Raw Story.
Trump has been notoriously stingy when it comes to paying public safety-related bills city governments have sent his campaign committee to defray the often significant and unexpected costs of facilitating and securing a large-scale political event.
Insider in 2020 calculated that Trump's campaign had not paid nearly $2 million worth of public safety-related invoices sent to his campaign by more than a dozen municipal governments, including those of Minneapolis; Erie, Pa.; Tucson, Ariz.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Spokane, Wash.; Lebanon, Ohio; and Burlington, Vt.
The Daily Beast has since found other unpaid bills, although the Trump campaign appears to have paid at least one, from Sioux City, Iowa, after being pressured by local officials.
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Waco officials did not immediately comment on the financial particulars of Trump's visit and asked Raw Story to make a written request for details, which have not yet been provided.
But the difference between why Trump is paying his Waco bills, as first reported by the Waco Tribune-Herald, and ignoring his El Paso bills appears tied to the mundane but significant matter of jurisdiction and contractual obligations.
Trump conducted his 2019 rally at the El Paso County Coliseum, which is controlled by the nonprofit El Paso Sports Commission, not the City of El Paso. Nevertheless, City of El Paso officials provided police and other resources for the event, but had no power to compel the Trump campaign to pay beforehand.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the El Paso County Coliseum on February 11, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Similarly, other city governments that provide city services for Trump rallies at non-city facilities are left to invoice the campaign of the former president with the hope that he'll pay up after the fact.
Most of the cities have been left disappointed.
"It is the U.S. Secret Service, not the campaign, which coordinates with local law enforcement. The campaign itself does not contract with local governments for police involvement. All billing inquiries should go to the Secret Service,” the Trump campaign told the Center for Public Integrity in 2020.
The U.S. Secret Service, which indeed oversees security for the visit of a current or former president, does not, however, receive funding from Congress to reimburse municipal governments for services they render at the Secret Services' behest. Cities could theoretically refuse to provide public services for Trump rallies, but such a move would introduce other risks officials aren't willing to shoulder, from traffic snarls to public safety breakdowns in the event of a Trump rally-related emergency.
Since Trump is conducting his Waco rally at the Waco Regional Airport, which the city government manages, City of Waco officials had leverage in compelling Trump to sign a pre-rally contract and pay up before the event took place.
In other words: no pay, no play.
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Several city governments, including the government of Nashville, Tenn., have taken similar approaches to Trump rallies when Trump's campaign wanted to use a city-managed facility for a political event.
Trump has long professed his love and admiration for law enforcement officials.
"Nobody appreciates you more than the president of the United States. Everybody knows what you do, and everybody cares. Without you, it just couldn't be the same. It would be really bad," Trump said in a video on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day 2020.
But when Trump rallies tonight in Waco — the event coincides with the 30th anniversary of the federal government’s siege of the compound of David Koresh’s Branch Davidians religious cult — he'll do so with local and federal law enforcement officials on his case from multiple angles.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is investigating whether Trump violated election laws and potentially falsified business documents to illegally cover up a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair. Trump himself says he expects to be indicted soon.
Trump also faces legal peril in Fulton County, Georgia, related to an investigation into whether he attempted to illegally overturn 2020 presidential election results.
A federal special counsel is also investigating Trump's role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and his handling of classified government documents in the months after he left the White House.