THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY
We have just learned that President Donald Trump is using money donated to his reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, according to two people familiar with the matter.
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.
One person familiar with the matter said the first payments, the amount of which reporters could not determine, has already been made and would be disclosed in public filings. The person did not explain how the costs would be allocated between the campaign and the RNC.
The Republican National Committee is expected to make its August spending public on Wednesday, and the Trump campaign is due for another disclosure on Oct. 15.
John Dowd, Trump’s lead lawyer, declined to say how the president’s legal bills were being paid, adding: “That’s none of your business.”
A spokesperson for the RNC declined to comment, but said the committee has already paid unspecified, 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.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election, and whether Trump may have obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey, among other actions.
Moscow has denied meddling in the U.S. election, and Trump denies any collusion or obstruction.