Today, Chris Wallace (who continues to make a strong case that he is the best interviewer in news today) crossed swords with President Donald Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow on who is paying his fees to represent the President. Sekulow said that he does not know since he bills the law firm of Marc E. Kasowitz. The question was legitimate and the answer does not resolve concerns. It is common to confirm the source of fees to confirm that there is no conflict of interest or other concerns raised by such fee payment. However, there is another report that confirms one source of fees . . . for Donald Trump Jr.
According to various media outlets, President Donald Trump’s campaign made a $50,000 payment last month to the attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. The payment, dated June 27, was made to the Law Offices of Alan Futerfas, for “Legal consulting.” Other records show payment to the law firm of Jones Day, which represented Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
The controversy over fees will likely grow if there continues to be this lack of transparency.
The story about Donald Jr. does raise an interesting legal issue. There is an obvious potential conflict with the campaign to the extent that the campaign did not sign off on meeting with someone who said that they were Russian government lawyers bringing information directly from the Russian government to influence the presidential election. Donald Trump Jr. did not hold any formal position with the campaign that I know of, but, more importantly, the payment of the fees suggests that his actions with regard to the Russian lawyers was attributable to some extent to the campaign. Of course, the involvement of Paul Manafort in the meeting did encompass a campaign official. There is no indication that Manafort’s fees are being covered by the campaign.
It is certainly legal to use campaign funds to pay for legal services, which has been interpreted broadly in the past. However, that does not answer questions over the appearance of legal and political conflicts of interest.