President Trump’s campaign committee made a payment to the law firm of an attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. last month, nearly two weeks before it was announced that the same attorney would be representing the president's son in Russia-related probes, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday.
The committee reported in the filing to the Federal Election Commission that it paid $50,000 to the law firm of attorney Alan Futerfas on June 27. That payment was made 13 days before it was publicly revealed that Futerfas would represent Trump's eldest son in the Russia investigations.
News of the payment came as controversy has swirled in recent days around Trump Jr. and a meeting he held in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who was said to have potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic opponent of Trump's father in the presidential election.
The filing also revealed that the campaign committee paid the Trump Corporation — a company being run by Trump Jr. and his brother Eric — more than $89,000 on June 30 for “legal consulting.” While the campaign committee has reimbursed Trump entities for services such as rent, air travel and hotel expenses in the past, it has not reported payments for legal fees, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Futerfas did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Saturday regarding the payment to his law firm and when he began representing Trump Jr. On July 10, two days after Trump Jr.'s meeting was revealed by the New York Times, Futerfas confirmed that he was representing Trump Jr. but did not say when he was hired.
It is permissible under federal law for Trump’s reelection committee to pay for legal expenses related to the Russia inquiries, as along as the costs resulted from campaign activity.
Trump Jr. has offered a series of evolving explanations for his meeting with the Russian lawyer — also attended by Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior aide, and Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair — since it was first made public.
He first said the meeting was about adoptions, then acknowledged that it was set up with someone who might have useful information for his father's campaign. On Tuesday, Trump Jr. publicly released an email exchange showing that he was promised incriminating “high level” information on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government's support for” his father.
Trump Jr. had previously said he held no meetings with Russians while “representing the campaign in any way, shape or form,” and he called the suggestion that Russia was attempting to help his father's presidential campaign “disgusting." U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia sought to help elect Trump, a determination the president has publicly questioned, and Congress and a special counsel are investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
New details have continued to emerge about Trump Jr.'s meeting, including the revelation this week that a Russian American lobbyist and Soviet military veteran was there. Futerfas has said the meeting was insignificant, telling The Washington Post on Friday that it was difficult to recall who attended that gathering because it was unimportant and too much time had passed.
“The frustrating part of all this for me is that this meeting occurred 13 months ago,” he said. “There is no record, no list of who was there. It was not a memorable meeting for anyone. Now, 13 months later, everyone expects we should have a perfect recollection.”
The White House has tried to play down the meeting's significance. While speaking with reporters on Air Force One during a flight to Paris late Wednesday, Trump defended his son and dismissed the meeting, which he said he had learned about earlier in the week. Trump said that most people who work in politics “are going to take that meeting.”
“He's a good boy,” Trump said of his 39-year-old son. “He's a good kid. And he had a meeting, nothing happened with the meeting. It was a short meeting, as he told me — because I only heard about it two or three days ago.”
The Trump campaign committee filing Saturday also showed that the committee paid legal fees to Jones Day, which served as the campaign’s principal law firm throughout the election. The firm was paid $538,265 between early May and late June, according to the filing.
The campaign committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the payments to Futerfas or the Trump Organization, nor did Alan Garten, the chief legal officer at the company.
Earlier this year, Trump's campaign committee was asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to gather and produce Russia-related documents, emails and phone records, drawing the political group into the investigation.
The huge legal outlays by Trump's campaign committee came as it has been repeatedly tapping Trump's small donor base for contributions, exhorting them in emails and text messages to give money to help the president fight the political establishment and “fake news.”
Trump supporters poured $13.4 million into three Trump committees between April 1 and June 30, including $5.9 million that went to his principal campaign committee. During the same period, that committee spent $4.37 million, including $677,000 on legal expenses.
Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.