WASHINGTON — President Trump already has stockpiled nearly $12 million for his 2020 re-election campaign, but his spending on legal expenses is soaring as his administration deals with a rapidly expanding investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, documents released Saturday afternoon show.
Trump's campaign racked up more than $677,000 in "legal consulting" fees between April and June, more than twice the $249,000 he spent on legal bills during the first three months of his presidency, newly filed Federal Election Commission reports show.
Most of the legal expenses were tied to his longtime election law firm, Jones Day.
But the filings also show a nearly $90,000 payment for legal expenses to his company, the Trump Organization, and $50,000 payment on June 27 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, the New York-based criminal attorney now representing Donald Trump Jr.
The younger Trump is facing increased scrutiny over revelations that he met a Russian lawyer in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign, believing that the Russian government had dirt to offer on Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
The payment to Futerfas came before The New York Times broke news of Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer and nearly two weeks before it was publicly announced that Futerfas would represent the president's oldest son.
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Michael Glassner, the executive director of Trump's campaign, did not respond to requests for more information about the payment to Futerfas and whether it amounted to a plan to use campaign dollars for all of the younger Trump's future legal bills.
Futerfas did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the payment and its timing, and a White House official referred the question to the campaign.
Using donors' money to pay his son's legal bills "should be permissible," Washington election lawyer Ken Gross told USA TODAY, because the younger Trump's actions "were purportedly on behalf of the campaign."
New details have emerged in recent days about the meeting involving the president's son. On Friday, news broke that a Russian-American lobbyist who once served in the Soviet military also was part of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.
On Saturday, the president formally announced the addition of a veteran Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to his legal team at the White House. Cobb, a partner in the investigations practice at the Hogan Lovells firm is expected to oversee the White House's legal and media response to the Russia probes.
Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said if Trump campaign pays his son's legal expenses a key question will be whether it will underwrite the legal expenses related to the Russia investigation for other campaign staffers.
Big cash reserves
In all, Trump’s campaign spent more than $4.3 million during the April-to-June fundraising quarter. Nearly half the money went to “digital consulting” and “online advertising” conducted by Giles-Parscale, a Texas firm that oversaw Trump’s 2016 digital efforts.
(Brad Parscale, a firm owner and the campaign’s digital guru, announced Friday that he had accepted an invitation to testify before the House intelligence committee as it examines Russia’s election meddling. In a statement, Parscale said he was "unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital and data operations" of the Trump campaign.)
The campaign also spent more than $200,000 at Trump-owned properties during the three-month period covered by Saturday’s filings, including lodging expenses at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and rent to Trump Towers in New York, where his campaign is headquartered
Those earning salaries from the campaign include John Pence, the nephew of Vice President Pence, hired in January as the campaign’s deputy executive director. He’s earned $82,000 in the first six months of this year.
Still, the Trump political operation has big cash reserves.
In addition to the nearly $12 million Trump’s reelection campaign had stockpiled in the bank at the end of June, two other joint fundraising committees he shares with the Republican National Committee had a combined $10.6 million in leftover funds in their campaign accounts, Federal Election Commission filings show.