President Donald Trump has begun paying his personal legal bills stemming from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign out of his own pocket, relieving the Republican Party of future payments, the White House’s special counsel on the matter announced Friday.
Trump, who claims a multibillion-dollar net worth, is also working with the Office of Government Ethics and tax law experts to fund the legal payments of White House staffers who have become embroiled in the Justice Department’s special counsel investigation.
“(The) President is paying his own legal fees, as was always his preference. He does not want to deplete any funds that may be available to assist current and former staffers,” Ty Cobb, the White House’s special counsel on the Russia matter, said in a statement.
“The Administration and others are working with the Office of Government Ethics and tax specialists to create a lawful mechanism for payment of fees for staffers,” Cobb added. “It is expected to be operational shortly.”
Bloomberg first reported on the change.
The Republican National Committee had previously paid for Trump’s legal bills, paying out more than $230,000 from a legal expense fund to the firms of two of Trump’s personal attorneys, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. It is unclear who funded payments to Marc Kasowitz, the first lawyer Trump hired to oversee the response to the growing probe into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Cobb did not indicate if Trump is planning to reimburse the RNC for those expenses.
The Trump campaign and the RNC have both footed the cost for some of the legal bills of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., and there were no signs Friday that the arrangement would change.
The RNC and the Trump campaign have paid more than $500,000 to attorneys representing Trump Jr., who has been repeatedly implicated in allegations of collusion due to his meeting with an attorney he believed would provide him with incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government and, more recently, his communications with WikiLeaks.
The announcement that Trump is working to set up a mechanism to pay for some of his staffers’ legal bills comes as several current and former White House staffers have been interviewed or are scheduled to be interviewed by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of his investigation — including former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House communications director Hope Hicks, among others.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump would help fund legal expenses for former campaign staffers as well.
The Russia investigation has proved costly for the Trump campaign, which has had to increase its legal spending not only to fund Trump Jr.’s legal bills, but also to comply with records requests in the investigation. Legal consulting fees account for $1 over every $10 the campaign has spent this year, according to a CNN analysis.