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Trump Using Money From RNC And Campaign To Pay Legal Fees

Donald Trump is using money from the Republican National Committee and his campaign to pay legal fees associated with the Russia investigation, and it’s all perfectly legal:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – 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.

The RNC is scheduled to disclose its August spending on Wednesday. The Trump campaign is due for a disclosure on Oct. 15.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission allows the use of private campaign funds to pay legal bills arising from being a candidate or elected official.

While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump would be the first U.S. president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.

Smedile said the RNC payments to Trump’s lawyers were “from a pre-existing legal proceedings account and do not reduce by a dime the resources we can put towards our political work.”

It was not clear how Trump’s legal costs related to the Russia probe would be allocated between the campaign and the RNC, one of the sources said.

Dowd declined to say how the president’s legal bills were being paid, adding: “That’s none of your business.”

Since the Russia probe is connected to the campaign for President, this is perfectly legal. At the same time, I have to wonder what people who’ve actually donated to the RNC thinking that their money was going toward political activities are thinking when they learn that it’s going, at least in part, to cover the legal expenses of a man worth billions of dollars. Of course, this isn’t atypical for Trump. He’s often been known for using money from other sources, such as his private Foundation, rather than his own money to make charitable donations and the like. So this is entirely consistent with past behavior.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. KM says:

    Can someone please explain how this could be legal? I mean, it’s already sketchy enough that he’s fundraising for something 4 years off from day one, now he’s using it to pay for things he did in a previous campaign. Are they considered legally separate and distinct timespans or can one perpetually run for office and use suckers’ money to pay off “last years campaign”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. gVOR08 says:

    I am not a lawyer, but somehow I don’t think money laundering and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act predating 2016 are campaign related.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @KM:

    …can one perpetually run for office and use suckers’ money to pay off “last years campaign”?

    That’s exactly right. Does knowing that the people who run for office are also the ones who make the laws about how candidates for office can spend the money help explain why the laws are what they are?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. DrDaveT says:

    Wasting RNC money on his legal expenses may be the first thing Trump has done that actually helps the nation.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  5. SenyorDave says:

    @KM: Are they considered legally separate and distinct timespans or can one perpetually run for office and use suckers’ money to pay off “last years campaign”?

    See Alan Keyes, he’s a perpetual candidate (and also the person Obama ran against to win his Senate seat). He can run, not worry about winning and actually having to do anything, pay himself a nice salary from campaign funds, live it up on expenses. Nice gig if you can get it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. SenyorDave says:

    He’s often been known for using money from other sources, such as his private Foundation, rather than his own money to make charitable donations and the like.

    My understanding of his shenanigans with using his charity’s money for personal reasons is that it is called “self dealing”, and it is not legal under the tax code.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Gustopher says:

    Given the number of times he has stiffed people who have worked for him, I think this is a positive step. The lawyers will get paid, in full.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Not the IT Dept. says:

    A genuine self-made man who appreciated the importance of personal honor would have too much pride to take charity. Which explains why Trump takes it, of course. Make America Grift Again!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. Scott F. says:

    At the same time, I have to wonder what people who’ve actually donated to the RNC thinking that their money was going toward political activities are thinking when they learn that it’s going, at least in part, to cover the legal expenses of a man worth billions of dollars.

    I suspect this all turns on Trump’s purported worth. His debts outweigh his assets, his outlays overwhelm his revenue streams, and due to his bankruptcies his borrowing is always on the bank’s terms. His personal worth is no where near what he advertises – that’s why he won’t release his tax returns.

    IMHO, Trump would rather be known as a criminal (since the law [read: government] is rigged against the “makers” like Don) than be known as a poor bum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @SenyorDave:

    See Alan Keyes, he’s a perpetual candidate (and also the person Obama ran against to win his Senate seat).

    Which race was the source of the oft cited 27% Crazification Factor, also known as the Alan Keyes Constant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Remember when people justified voting for trump because, “Hillary would be under FBI investigation from day 1.” Well, trump has been under investigation by the FBI since day -116 and guess what, those idjits are paying his legal expenses.

    Sometimes I think there really is a God and S/He has a really wicked sense of humor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. beth says:

    Why do you think he came out with the line of white hats? All the marks already have the red ones and he’s got to keep the cash flowing in. I’ll bet there’s a blue hat rolled out in a month or two.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @beth:

    Why do you think he came out with the line of white hats? All the marks already have the red ones and he’s got to keep the cash flowing in. I’ll bet there’s a blue hat rolled out in a month or two.

    We’ll know it’s over for Trump and his ‘Fredo’ sons when they appear at impromptu press conferences on Capitol Hill wearing ski-masks

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Franklin says:

    Well, I imagine a lot of his lawyers have a conservative bent. So the RNC money is mostly just getting recycled. But it’s got to be pretty irritating to people who contributed that their money is going towards their least favorite profession.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. CSK says:

    The RNC has forked over $196,000 to cover Donny Junior’s legal expenses. How is that justifiable?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Pete S says:

    @CSK: I can see it as a legitimate political expense. “Our last nominee and much of his family are now in jail” does not seem like a winning slogan for future elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0