As the Russia scandal has heated up in recent months, Donald Trump has been forced to put together an outside legal team, featuring a strange mix of attorneys who keep making embarrassing mistakes. What we weren’t aware of until yesterday, however, is who’s paying their bills.
Many assumed the president himself was paying the bill for his own legal team because as a self-professed billionaire, he can afford it. But as Reuters first reported, it looks like Trump prefers to have Republican donors pay for part of the bill.
“U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Following Reuters exclusive report on Tuesday, CNN reported that the Republican National Committee paid in August more than $230,000 to cover some of Trump’s legal fees related to the probe.
RNC spokesperson Cassie Smedile confirmed to Reuters that Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, received $100,000 from the RNC and that the RNC also paid $131,250 to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, the law firm where Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, is a partner.”
As Rachel noted on last night’s show, no other U.S. president has ever used donor money this way, which is a decision made all the more suspicious given Trump’s vast independent wealth.
Making matters worse, the Wall Street Journal reported overnight that the Republican National Committee has also assisted in paying for the legal defense of Donald Trump Jr.
Putting aside whether Republican donors will be okay with their contributions being used this way, is it even legal for Trump to give campaign money to his lawyers?
The answer is yes. Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney, explained on MSNBC last night that this arrangement may be strange, but campaign money is often used to pay lawyers though in most cases, the lawyers are hired to handle election-related issues such as recounts, not a counter-espionage investigation into the president’s political operation.
McQuade also said this falls into the “awful, but lawful” category.