The Republican National Committee is footing the bill for the lawyers representing former President Donald Trump in dealings with the New York prosecutors investigating whether he or his eponymous businesses committed any crimes in New York, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
A person “with direct knowledge” of payments made to the law firm of Ronald Fischetti — a defence lawyer who Mr Trump retained this past spring — told the Post that the RNC’s executive committee approved the payments “in recent weeks”.
Mr Fischetti is representing Mr Trump in investigations being conducted by New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. The two prosecutors are examining Mr Trump’s business practices, and have already obtained indictments against his eponymous real estate company, the Trump Organization, as well as Alan Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer.
In a statement to the Post, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the GOP committee is paying for Mr Trump’s defence because defending his “record of achievement” is “critical” since he is still the leader of the party.
“It is entirely appropriate for the RNC to continue assisting in fighting back against the Democrats’ neverending witch hunt and attacks on him,” Ms McDaniel said.
The RNC decision to pay Mr Trump’s legal bills came nearly a year after he decided to continue representing himself as a member of the GOP in order to retain access to party funds and resources.
According to reporting by ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl in his book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Mr Trump told Ms McDaniel that he was leaving the GOP to start his own party in a phone call made as he was leaving the White House for the final time on 20 January.
Mr Trump reportedly abandoned those plans after Ms McDaniel told him that the RNC would stop paying legal fees he’d incurred in his efforts to overturn the election.
A person familiar with internal debates over the payments said the RNC is willing to pay for Mr Trump’s legal representation in this case because Ms James, who earlier this month declared herself a candidate in next year’s New York gubernatorial election, has made prior statements indicating that she would investigate Mr Trump.
In 2018, Ms James told supporters that she would be “shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings”.
A spokesperson for Mr Trump, Taylor Budowich, called the RNC an “important partner in advancing America First policies and fighting back against the endless witch hunts”.
“The Democrats have become obsessed with weaponizing their offices against President Trump, which is a complete abandonment of their Constitutional obligations,” he said.
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