Of course President Trump is crowdsourcing his Russia probe legal fees from campaign donations and the Republican National Committee, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a president who capitalized on a national disaster to hock his campaign hats.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Trump has been paying a team of lawyers, whom he retained to represent him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s apparent hacking of the 2016 election, with money from the RNC and his re-election fund. One of Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, declined to comment on how he was being paid, but a RNC spokeswoman corroborated Reuters’ report:
An RNC spokesperson confirmed the payments and said additionally they have also made non-Russia related litigation expenses for the campaign. The RNC has an existing legal defense fund which has been used mainly for Election Day recounts and other routine legal matters for candidates, the spokesperson said.
“They have been paid with funds from a pre-existing legal proceedings account and do not reduce by a dime the resources we can put towards our political work,” said RNC spokesperson Cassie Smedile.
The RNC has already made two payments to Trump’s legal team totaling $231,250, according to a report from The Hill, which was confirmed by the RNC.
While the U.S. Federal Election Commission allows the use of campaign funds to pay legal fees, candidates typically pay for disputes involving ballots, vendor contracts, and compliance with campaign donations. But Trump is not a typical candidate or president. In fact, he would be the first president to pay for responding to a criminal probe with campaign funds, according to Reuters.
Equally as unsurprising is the U.S. Office of Government Ethics’ decision to quietly rescinded a policy prohibiting lobbyists from anonymously donating to the legal defense funds of White House employees — after backlash, OGE’s acting director David Apol told Politico that the office had not changed its policy on anonymous donations.
For a refresher, though, current and former members of Trump’s administration who have lawyered up in response to Mueller’s probe are: Sean Spicer, Reince Preibus, Hope Hicks, Mike Pence, and Jared Kushner. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, has stuck with the more traditional crowdsourcing route for his $1 million legal tab.
This post has been updated to reflect the U.S. Office of Government Ethics’ recent decision to maintain its anonymous donation ban.