With news breaking that the Trump reelection campaign made a payment of $50,000 to a lawyer retained shortly before the bombshell discovery that Don Jr. had met with a Russian lawyer in an attempt to dig up dirt in opposition research on Hillary Clinton, it’s easy to hyper-focus on that one headline.
However, it’s important to note that there is much more to the FEC filings than just that one payment to Don Jr.’s legal representation. In fact, that one payment is pocket change compared to what has been paid out for other “legal consulting.” Politico reported:
‘Trump disclosed $677,826 in payments described in filings as “legal consulting” between April and June of 2017 – a significant chunk of the $4.37 million his campaign spent overall – as the number and velocity of investigations into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election increased.’
Though there are many legal issues involved with politics and running campaigns, the difference between the legal expenses in the previous quarter was striking. During the previous quarter, Trump’s reelection campaign disbursed $249,344 to legal consultants. However, in the past three months as more investigations into allegations of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia have popped up, the disbursements tripled.
Most of that $677,826 that was spent on “legal consulting” went to Jones Day, which is the campaign’s legal representation according to Politico. In the FEC filing, they reported paying out $538,265 to the Jones Day firm. The previous quarter’s payment to Jones Day was only $190,306. Again, that showed a disbursement amount that almost tripled.
The recent payments were made on May 3, May 11, May 15, June 2, and June 23. It should be noted that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9. Furthermore, on May 11 Trump told Lester Holt the decision to fire Comey was his, and he would have fired him regardless of what anyone advised him. That admission was made after the White House and Vice President Mike Pence said Trump made the decision based on the recommendation of the Department of Justice.
Another payment was, of course, made to The Law Offices of Alan S. Futerfas. That payment was made on June 27 and totaled $50,000. On July 11, Don Jr. made a statement and released the email chain regarding the meeting with the Russian lawyer.
Another major disbursement, however, was made to The Trump Corporation itself. That occurred on June 30 and totaled $89,561. Politico reported this was the first disbursement ever made to Trump Corporation for legal consulting and explained what the payment could have been for.
‘The payments to the Trump Corporation could be for lawyers employed by the corporation working on campaign-related issues such as the Russia probe, or possibly to reimburse other lawyers hired by the Trump Corporation whose names are not disclosed in the filing. Campaign finance records do not show any prior payments for legal services made from the campaign to the Trump Corporation in the past.’
Furthermore, as the payments to Futerfas and the Trump Corporation were made close to the end of the filing deadline, more payments may have been made that could show a significantly higher amount of money being paid out in legal consulting.
Are the payments legal if they are related to investigations into Trump’s ties with Russia? They could be. Politico explained after speaking with Campaign Legal Center’s Senior Director Larry Noble.
‘So long as Trump is only paying expenses incurred from the parts of the investigation related to his campaign, it’s legal for the president to use his campaign donations to pay legal expenses or the legal expenses for Trump Jr…’
Beyond the term “legal consulting,” there’s not much else that can be said about the payments. What’s discussed behind the closed doors between Trump and his team and the attorneys who are foolish enough to mess with them is protected. However, looking at the fact that his legal expenses have TRIPLED since the last filing and just looking at the variety of headlines that have come out during the last quarter, it’s fair to assume that Trump’s reelection campaign is having to carry the financial brunt and fallout of his (and his son’s) legal woes. With more and more bombshells dropping, his legal expenses will only grow larger. Those expenses will have to be paid for, and it looks like the campaign funds, which many contribute to see that the president will actually survive another reelection, will instead be funneled into saving Trump from a trip to the slammer.
Featured image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.