Report: Trump Using RNC, Campaign Funds For Russia Probe Legal Bills

Billionaire co-founder of Galleon Group Raj Rajaratnam, right, enters Manhattan federal court with his attorney John Dowd, Friday, April 29, 2011, in New York. Jury deliberations continue in the trial of Rajaratnam, who is accused of gaining $63 million from trading on illegal stock tips. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew/AP

President Donald Trump is using funds donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay the team of outside lawyers representing him in the various probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Reuters reported Tuesday.

One of two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the first payments had already been made and would be disclosed in public filings. The RNC is expected to make its August spending public on Wednesday, while Trump’s reelection campaign, which launched the day he took office, makes its next disclosure on Oct. 15.

CNN reported that the RNC in August shelled out some $230,000 for Trump’s Russia-related legal fees, paying $100,000 to lead outside attorney John Dowd and $131,250 to conservative constitutional lawyer Jay Sekulow.

Election law experts told Reuters that Trump is the first president to use private campaign funds to cover the costs of a criminal investigation. The Federal Election Commission does permit use of private donations for legal expenses, but past presidential campaigns have spent them on routine matters like compliance requirements.

An unnamed RNC official told CNN that the money for Trump’s private attorneys came through the RNC’s legal defense fund, rather than its political coffers.

Dowd was a bit more tart when Reuters asked about how Trump was covering his legal bills, saying only: “That’s none of your damn business.”

The third attorney assisting with the probe is special White House counsel Ty Cobb, a salaried staffer.

Campaigns may pay legal fees for individuals other than the particular candidate or elected official, Reuters noted. One example was the campaign’s June payment of $50,000 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, the attorney representing Donald Trump, Jr. That same filing showed that Trump has spent over $4.5 million of campaign funds on legal costs from January through June.

A number of other White House staffers, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn, and Communications Director Hope Hicks, have retained legal representation in response to the investigation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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