Trump Will Use Campaign Funds to Pay for Russia Legal Bills
(Bloomberg) —President Donald Trump will use money donated to his campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his personal legal bills related to investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia, two people familiar with the matter said.
The first payments from the campaign and RNC have already been made to Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, said one person. Another person said the RNC has been working for months to figure out the legal parameters for using campaign donations for a candidate’s personal defense.
Trump donors may be surprised that money they gave the campaign could be used to defend the president in the Russia investigations, but it’s likely a valid expense as long as it’s related to campaign activities, election lawyers have said. The people familiar with the matter didn’t disclose the amount of the first payments, but if past investigations are an indicator, Trump’s personal bills could reach beyond $1 million.
Disclosures through the end of June show Trump’s campaign made a $50,000 payment to the law firm of the attorney representing Donald Trump Jr., dated almost two weeks before news reports that he took a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The RNC said it will make the payments from a existing account for legal costs that donors specifically give to. None of the expenses will come from the general fund used for the RNC’s political work.
The Trump campaign sent $538,264 in the second quarter of 2016 to Jones Day, its legal counsel, as the Russia investigation intensified. That was more than twice what it spent over the three previous months.
The campaign isn’t short on cash to cover legal costs and has been fundraising for re-election much earlier than past first-term presidents. Trump’s three fundraising committees ended June with $22.6 million of cash on hand, including $11.9 million just in his campaign coffers. Trump raised $13.3 million through the fundraising committees in the second quarter, up from $12.6 million during the prior three months, according to disclosures released Saturday.
The RNC said today that it ended August with $45.8 million in the bank. Its next report is due at the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 20. The party says its receipts total $93.3 million in 2017.
Reuters reported earlier that Trump was using campaign and RNC money for his legal expenses.