Donald Trump ‘using Republican National Committee donations to help pay Russia probe legal bills’

US President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the US 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 15 October.

The US 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 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.

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.”

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, among other actions.

Moscow has denied meddling in the US election, and Trump has denied any collusion or obstruction.

Reuters could not determine how large a legal bill Trump has incurred to date from his lawyers on the Mueller investigation. Trump hired his longtime New York lawyer Marc Kasowitz to head his defence team in May, but Kasowitz stepped down in July, with Dowd taking over the lead role, according to people familiar with…

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