The decision by the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee to help pay some of President Trump’s Russia-related legal bills has prompted a simple question from some former Trump campaign advisers: what about us?
It was reported earlier this week that the RNC has shelled out more than $230,000 to pay two of Trump’s personal lawyers working on the Russia investigation. Trump’s 2020 campaign is also dipping into its war chest to cover legal expenses for Trump and some of his family members. In July, the campaign paid $50,000 to retain a lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., who entered the Russia spotlight after it was revealed that he accepted a meeting with a group of Russian operatives last June.
The arrangement has come under criticism because Trump, as a billionaire, could seemingly afford to cover his own legal costs.
With lawyer fees running at least $500 an hour, some ensnared advisers are looking at five-figure legal bills, even if they are not the targets of investigators. More than a dozen campaign aides and White House officials have reportedly lawyered up amid the Russia probe.
Michael Caputo, a communications adviser on the campaign, is one of them.
Caputo has said that he has had to deplete his children’s college savings to pay $30,000 in legal bills he’s accumulated while preparing for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee and, he expects, Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, Caputo said that neither the RNC nor the Trump campaign has offered any help. But he tells The Daily Caller that the organizations should consider helping out people who have been pulled into what he calls the “bogus” Russia investigation.
“The first and most important responsibility of the Republican Party is to defend President Trump and his family,” Caputo tells TheDC.
But he adds that “the Party or the campaign might also consider paying the legal bills of bit players in this charade who don’t deserve the financial burden any more than the President.”
“I’d accept the help. I don’t know anyone in this who wouldn’t,” says Caputo, who appears to be caught up in the Russia investigation because he does business in Russia and once lived in Moscow.
Caputo has publicly stated that he saw no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russians.
“No one ever breathed the word ‘Russia’ to me,” he told CNN in July, just before his House Intelligence Committee interview.
J.D. Gordon, the director of the Trump campaign’s national security policy team, says that the campaign and RNC should defray campaign advisers’ Russia-related legal bills.
“If the Trump re-election campaign and RNC are paying Trump’s legal bills related to Russia, they ought to pay for former campaign staff as well,” Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, told TheDC.
“Trump Associates are the real victims of Trump-Russia mass hysteria. Many of us are faced with enormous legal bills for just doing our jobs.”
Gordon has been interviewed as a witness by investigators looking into Russian meddling. The document productions required for those interviews, as well as the per-hour rate of having a lawyer attend the interviews, has led to thousands of dollars in legal bills, he says.
Gordon, who was not paid for his work on the campaign, lays much of the blame for his legal woes at the feet of senior Trump campaign officials who unequivocally denied that members of the campaign had contact with Russians.
“I wish they would have asked us,” says Gordon.
Gordon says he saw no evidence of collusion with Russians on the campaign, but he says he was aware of some “benign” contacts between campaign members and people affiliated with the Russian government.
Gordon has been in the public limelight for at least one of those contacts. He is one of several Trump campaign figures who had an interaction with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in July. Former campaign adviser Carter Page also spoke to Kislyak during the convention.
Then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who chaired the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, also met Kislyak during the campaign.
Gordon asserts that direct denials about Russian contacts from people like Hope Hicks, the White House communications director who served as Trump’s spokeswoman on the campaign, have given Trump critics and investigators alike a point of attack against the campaign.
“It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign,” Hicks said days after Trump’s election.
Gordon submitted a request Friday to the RNC seeking assistance for his “significant personal legal costs.” He says the RNC had not responded to his request.
The party also declined to comment for this article. A request for comment from the Trump campaign was not returned.