Donald Trump starts paying Russia probe legal fees, previously covered by Republican party, donations

Donald Trump starts paying Russia probe legal fees, previously covered by Republican party, donations

Donald Trump starts paying Russia probe legal fees, previously covered by Republican party, donations

Updated 18 November 2017, 16:15 AEDT

The US President begins paying his own legal bills related to the Russia investigation and will no longer use political donations to his re-election campaign or the Republican Party to cover the costs.

US President Donald Trump has begun paying his own legal bills related to the Russia investigation and will no longer use political donations to his re-election campaign or the Republican Party to cover the costs, his attorneys say.

Mr Trump's defence lawyer John Dowd said that following payments by the Republican National Committee (RNC), the President began paying the bills and now wants to make the party "even".

The expenses cover Mr Trump's personal lawyers as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in last year's election, and whether Mr 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 Mr Trump has denied any collusion or obstruction.

The RNC did not respond to a request for comment.

The administration is also working with others to establish a fund for current and former staffers, Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said.

Mr Dowd said Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg of Jones Day are working to structure that fund, which would be subject to rules that prohibit staff from receiving gifts or pro bono legal service.

The President is exempt from those rules, Mr Dowd said.

"The geniuses are working on it," Mr Dowd said.

"If it passes muster with the tax lawyers and accountants, then it has to pass muster with the Office of Government Ethics.

"The President is worried about staffers who have good lawyers and they can't afford them."

During former president Bill Clinton's administration, private funds were raised to cover his own legal expenses related to the Whitewater investigation.

Under former president George W Bush, a legal fund was set up to help former staffer Lewis "Scooter" Libby, only after he had left White House employment.

In August, Reuters first reported that the RNC was paying Mr Trump's legal bills, which amounted to more than $US230,000 ($300,000) that month.

The payments were made to Mr Trump's outside legal team, which includes Mr Dowd and Jay Sekulow.

Additionally, Mr Trump's re-election campaign paid more than $395,000 this year in bills to lawyers representing his son Donald Trump Jr, according to public disclosures filed by the campaign.

The campaign did not respond to a request for comment whether it will continue to pay for Mr Trump Jr's legal expenses.

The US Federal Election Commission allows 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, Mr Trump was 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.

Reuters