This question is inspired by this other question.

In that question, it was written that:

Donald Trump moved more than $200,000 donated to his Make America Great Again PAC into his own private business accounts, according to an analysis of his federal filings.

The money was moved in February, a month after Mr Trump left office. Money donated to PACs is meant to be spent solely on campaign efforts.

Assuming that the claim is true (which is disputed), does this act constitute embezzlement?

  • 6
    Speculating, he might claim that this money was payment for things his companies did to further his campaign. At that point it becomes a matter of wrangling over which company activities were part of his campaign, and whether the price paid was fair. Aug 4, 2021 at 11:14
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    You need to update your question. It looks like the claim wasn't true - AT ALL. The tone and statements of your question are misleading to the user on the site. All political campaigns pay off debt, and very often to affiliates that they or close friends might be part of. When I say often, I mean like 95%+. If you are expecting our judicial system to criminally prosecute based on using donation money in frivolous ways then we won't have any political parties nor many charities.
    – blankip
    Aug 4, 2021 at 17:41
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    @blankip it depends on which 'claim' you take from the skeptics SE - the OP never specified if they were asking if the money moved between the accounts, or if it constitutes embezzlements. The answers make clear it cannot be embezzlement and also make clear the transfer of funds happened
    – TCooper
    Aug 4, 2021 at 22:02
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    @TCooper - Clearly stated that it wasn't money moved between accounts (of the same person). Don't even understand what you are saying. Misappropriation of funds according to charity/PAC guidelines would be the first step. If the misappropriated funds are deemed "wrong" it would be up for the charity/PAC/(person) to right the funds. How is something embezzlement if it was used to pay a debt and no one has brought up misappropriation. Your comment is just another example of not being able to read what happened correctly.
    – blankip
    Aug 5, 2021 at 5:27
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    @blankip I stated is wasn't embezzlement, same as you? My point was the transfer of funds from the PAC to the business did occur. That's all. The claim the payment(if you prefer this term to transfer, a payment is money moving between accounts...) was made is true, the idea it's embezzlement is false. I understand what happened perfectly. No need for personal attacks.
    – TCooper
    Aug 5, 2021 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


Embezzlement is criminally prohibited by 18 USC 666, and this DoJ manual page on what is embezzlement cites the answer in Moore v. United States, 160 U.S. 268 that

Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come. It differs from larceny in that the original taking was lawful, or with the consent of the owner, while in larceny the felonious intent must have existed at the time of the taking

Following other case law, the elements of the crime are

there was a trust or fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the private organization or State or local government agency;

the property came into the possession or care of the defendant by virtue of his/her employment;

the defendant's dealings with the property constituted a fraudulent conversion or appropriation of it to his/her own use; and

the defendant acted with the intent to deprive the owner of the use of this property.

This page lists over 32,000 disbursements; filtering just for rent give over 2,400 disbursements, a number of which are recent and made to some business with Trump in the name (Trump Tower LLC etc).

The conversion would have to be fraudulent to be embezzlement. There actually is not any evidence provided that a transfer violated FEC regulations (we have dates, amounts, and recipient), so we would have to speculate about what else is true. There are processed disbursement images up to 10/21/2020 such as this receipt for 3 charges for food and lodging paid to Trump Hotel Collection. In fact this payment was made by Donald J Trump for President, Inc. although the search term was the aforementioned PAC: I will overlook that anomaly.

This is the FEC page on that committee (you have to follow the committee number because the name was also used in the 2016 campaign but was terminated). There vast numbers of filings linked there, but nothing that I saw indicates that Trump is in any sense an employee of the organization, so there is no actual evidence that there were any "Trump actions". First, it would have to be shown that there were Trump actions. Second, it would have to be show that the action was fraudulent. Technical misappropriation is not fraudulent. This FEC page describes the safe harbor provisions for misappropriation. This page specifically addresses embezzlement. Although they use the word "embezzlement", they do not purport that misappropriation constituted embezzlement as defined above, to point out that civil penalties may result from violation, see 11 CFR Part 104. Ultimately, the legal propriety of the disbursements depends on its purpose: here is what the FEC say about illegal conversion for personal use (food for daily consumption, mortgage or rent for personal residence, tuition...).

The available evidence does not even suggest embezzlement.

  • So if someone hands me $10,000 and says "Go buy a car for me with this money", and I say "I'm going to keep it for myself", that's not embezzlement, since I was honest about taking it for myself? Aug 6, 2021 at 1:11

Embezzlement is the action of an employee who, having access to or control over funds or things of value as a part of employment, improperly takes or gains possession of them, or converts them to personal use, or the use of another without proper authorization from the employer, with an intent to deprive the employer of the funds or their value.

As Trump was not an employee of the PAC, he could not have embezzled from it.

It is perfectly legal for a campaign or PAC to pay a corporation for goods or services used by the campaign. It is not uncommon for a campaign to select businesses affiliated with or favored by the candidate. If the payments were for value received by the campaign, there is probably no legal violation. If the payments were in excess of value properly received by the campaign, then there might have been a violation of US Federal campaign laws or their implementing regulations. Determining that would take detailed inspection of the records, noting what was paid for and what was received, and whether a reasonable price was paid in each case. Determining that would perhaps start from the filings referenced in the linked question and news story, but would probably need related records from various parts of the Trump Organization and perhaps from others.

If it were determined that there was a violation of law or regulation, one would still need to determine just who was responsible and whether it was a civil violation or a crime. It is not automatically the case that everything done by the Trump campaign or the various Trump businesses is his personal responsibility. And there would need to be a legal process, quite probably a trial, to fix legal responsibility and impose any penalties. That hasn't happened yet, although it might in the future.

Until someone does the kind of detailed investigation I described, it is not possible to say with assurance if any laws were violated, or who might have violated them. It seems that such investigations are in progress. But I do not see how they could lead to a charge of embezzlement by Trump.

  • "It seems that such investigations are in progress". You are referring to the Manhattan DA investigation? Does the scope of that include the FEC filings for the Trump campaign successors PACs? My understanding of the investigation is that is does not include any Trump campaign dealings. It appears a bit facetious, actually, mostly targeting fringe benefits paid to a few executives and whether the appropriate taxes were paid on them.
    – user608
    Aug 5, 2021 at 0:36

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