The Republican National Committee paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations, according to a new federal filing.
The RNC's $451,780 payment to Trout Cacheris & Janis adds to the mounting legal fees associated with the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Hicks hired Robert Trout, founder of the law firm, as her personal attorney in September, according to news reports. The report of the payments for legal and compliance services, contained in the Federal Election Commission report filed Sunday, is the first public disclosure of RNC payments to the law firm since Hicks hired Trout.
Three lawyers at the firm represent people in addition to Hicks in the investigations by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees, according to the firm's website. Hicks, who was one of President Trump's most trusted and loyal aides, was interviewed by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence panels in early 2018.
Hicks resigned from her White House position in February, and her last day was in March.
Last year, the RNC began tapping a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay the ballooning legal fees of Trump and his associates drawn into the Russia investigations.
Some party officials thought it would be more appropriate to create a separate legal defense fund for the case, The Washington Post reported last year. But RNC officials concluded that it is permissible for the party to pay for the president's legal fees. At the time, party and administration officials were working to determine whether executive branch staff members, who must comply with gift rules, could have their legal fees defrayed by the RNC or private legal defense funds.
A legal defense fund was created in February to help defray the costs faced by Trump's aides who are drawn into the Russia investigations. But it is unclear whether the fund has received or paid any money, as it has not publicly disclosed any information about donations or spending.
A spokesperson for the RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The RNC continued to post strong fundraising figures in April, raising $12.7 million, for a total of $173.9 million in the 2018 cycle and $43.8 million in cash on hand, the filing shows.
The Democratic National Committee raised $7.8 million in April, for a total of $92.2 million for the 2018 cycle. The DNC had $8.7 million in cash on hand and $5.3 million in debt.
But the main outside groups supporting Democratic congressional candidates outraised their GOP counterparts in April. The two Democratic super PACs supporting congressional candidates in the midterm elections raised a total of $11.2 million, compared with $6 million by the two main Republican super PACs, according to reports filed Sunday and earlier this month.
Among the six-figure donors to the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats, were actor and producer Seth MacFarlane, who gave $2 million; Cynthia Simon-Skjodt, a philanthropist and daughter of the Simon Property Group founder, who gave $1 million; and Bay Area real estate developer George Marcus, who gave $1 million.