Reuters reports that, according to two sources, Donald Trump has been using reelection campaign funds and money donated to the RNC to pay for legal fees associated with the criminal probe into his administration’s alleged collusion with Russia.
According to the Federal Election Commission, it’s legal for politicians to use campaign funds for legal bills relating to their campaign, so long as the funds are not public contributions. But Reuters notes that, “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 US 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.”
And, as one expert told Reuters, public funds cannot be used to cover legal fees from criminal investigations:
Adav Noti, a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group that describes itself as nonpartisan, said public campaign funds - as opposed to the private funds Trump has raised - cannot generally be used for expenses arising from criminal investigations, or for any expenses that arise after the campaign is over.
Reuters wasn’t able to determine how much private money Trump has poured into his legal fees, but “[o]ne person familiar with the matter said the first payments, the amount of which Reuters could not determine, has already been made and would be disclosed in public filings.”
The RNC would not comment on the issue, but told Reuters that it had funded legal fees for Trump that weren’t related to the Russia probe. Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, responded in a far more Trump-y way, saying, “That’s none of your business.”
Read the full report here.
Update 9/19, 9:39 pm: Reuters has updated its story with the following statement from the RNC:
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.