Third Party Legal Fee Payments – A Problem for Trump But Not for Corporations


Professor Bruce Green wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg Law about President Trump’s offer to help staffers pay legal fees arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.

It was widely reported in October that President Trump offered $430,000 out of his own pocket to pay his aides’ legal fees in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation. Was this merely an expression of generosity? At least one knowledgeable critic responded that the President’s offer “raises substantial questions under federal criminal law.”  What’s the problem?

Prosecutors argued that the payments were evidence of a conspiratorial understanding: In exchange for keeping silent about the benefactor’s criminal involvement, the beneficiary received the services of a high-priced lawyer. The payment of legal fees bought a confederate’s silence – an act bordering on obstruction of justice (if not crossing the border).

If President Trump’s offer to finance aides’ legal fees ever became an issue at trial, he could deny that he was offering the equivalent of hush money. Rather, he could say, his avowed willingness to offset his aides’ legal fees was benign, like that of KPMG. Even so, given that firing FBI director Comey raised similar obstruction-of-justice concerns, the President did not serve himself well by offering payments that might appear to be designed to interfere with a criminal investigation of which he is a part.


Read full op-ed.



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