• Fund will take money from U.S. citizens, permanent residents
• Flynn is believed to be a focus of Mueller’s investigation
The family of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has set up a fundraising operation to help cover legal costs associated with investigations into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election and his interactions with Russian officials.
“Lori and I are very grateful to my brother Joe and sister Barbara for creating a fund to help pay my legal defense costs,” Flynn tweeted Monday. “We deeply appreciate the support of family and friends across this nation who have touched our lives.”
Flynn appears to be the first associate of President Donald Trump to begin raising money for legal costs tied to the federal and congressional investigations, though others are also looking into the logistics.
A retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, Flynn was forced to resign from his post as White House national security adviser just weeks into the presidency. Administration officials said Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his calls with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
Flynn is among more than a dozen former Trump campaign officials and advisers who are at risk of hefty legal costs following the appointment in May of special counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn is believed to be a focus of Mueller’s investigation and even if he’s never charged with a crime, his legal costs could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, lawyers have said.
“The various investigations arising out of the 2016 presidential election have placed a tremendous financial burden on our brother Mike and his family,” Flynn’s brother and sister, Joe Flynn and Barbara Redgate, said in a joint statement. “The enormous expense of attorneys’ fees and other related expenses far exceed their ability to pay.”
The Office of Government Ethics issued rules in 1993 governing legal defense funds for government officials while they are in office. Flynn’s fund, however, would be under no obligation to follow them since he’s no longer a government employee, said Stan Brand, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
“The only thing that governs it would be IRS regulations on the gift tax,” he said. “Those funds wouldn’t be income to him, he would say they were used to defray legal fees incurred in the course of his business.”
The fund will not accept contributions from the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization, a person with knowledge of the fund said.
The donation page of the fund’s website says it will accept contributions only from U.S. citizens and permanent residents. But according to Brand, because Flynn left the Trump administration, the fund could accept contributions from corporations and foreign donors. “For people in government it’s much trickier to accept donations,” he said.
The Trump campaign doesn’t appear to be short on cash to cover legal costs and has been fundraising for re-election much earlier than past first-term presidents. Trump’s three fundraising committees ended June with $22.6 million cash on hand, including $11.9 million in his campaign coffers. Trump raised $13.3 million through the fundraising committees in the second quarter, up from the $12.6 million during the prior three months.
Campaign disclosures through the end of June show it made a $50,000 payment to the law firm of the attorney representing Donald Trump Jr., dated almost two weeks before news reports that he had a meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The Trump campaign sent $538,264 in the second quarter of 2016 to Jones Day, its legal counsel, as the Russia investigation intensified. That was more than twice what it spent over the three previous months.
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