State Watch

El Paso mayor says city may sue Trump campaign over failure to pay $500,000 in rally expenses

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El Paso, Texas, Mayor Dee Margo (R) said Tuesday that the failure of President Trump’s reelection campaign to pay more than $500,000 for police and public safety services tied to a 2019 rally could result in a lawsuit from the city.

El Paso officials said last year that the campaign owed the city about $470,000 for the services it provided during a rally Trump held in February 2019. The city has since hit the Trump campaign with nearly $100,000 in additional late fees after repeatedly failing to recoup the money. 

“My last instructions to [city staff] were if we need to, file suit,” Margo said during a virtual press conference, according to The Texas Tribune.

Margo was later informed that a lawsuit would need to be filed by the El Paso City Council. He responded by stating that the city probably needs to “progress that way.” He did not offer any other details about when the city may take such an action. 

The comments came as local governments around the nation face budget challenges due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. El Paso is reportedly on track to lose more than $25 million due to the pandemic and is considering slashing employee salaries to help manage the fallout. 

Trump held the campaign rally in El Paso as he ramped up his efforts for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Six city departments, including the fire, health, aviation and police departments, provided services, according an invoice obtained by The El Paso Times.

A Trump campaign official contended to The Hill that it isn’t responsible for city contracts focused on police services. 

“It is the U.S. Secret Service, not the campaign, which coordinates with local law enforcement,” the official said. “The campaign itself does not contract with local governments for police involvement. All billing inquiries should go to the Secret Service.”

The El Paso mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill. 

In total, 14 city governments say they are still waiting on the Trump campaign to pay them for services they offered during one of the president’s rallies, according to The Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The campaign reportedly owes more than $1.8 million. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), for example, told CPI the Trump campaign owes the city about $540,000 for services provided at an October 2019 rally. 

“During this crisis, that loss is even more pronounced — $150,000, for instance, could pay for emergency rental assistance for 100 Minneapolis families,” Frey said. 


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