Trump’s Private Lawyer Won’t Cost Taxpayers

Q: Is President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, “costing taxpayers $ 10,000 per hour” for his services during the Russia investigation?

A: No. That claim comes from a baseless story on an “entertainment” website that posts satirical stories.

FULL QUESTION

Trying to find information regarding whether or not taxpayers are paying for Trump’s personal attorney.

FULL ANSWER

A story published June 10 on ViralCords.com falsely claims that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer is “costing taxpayers $ 10,000 per hour.” Facebook users rightly flagged the story as potentially fake news using the social network’s tool for reporting a hoax.

“The hourly rate for President Trump’s attorney is $ 1,500 per hour,” the story says, “but with the taxpayers covering the cost, the law firm is billing the taxpayers $ 10,000 per hour, a 1500% increase.”

It’s true that Trump hired Marc Kasowitz to lead a team of private lawyers as a special counsel investigates possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials who sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Taxpayers, however, will not be paying for Kasowitz’s services, no matter the cost.

Viral Cords doesn’t provide any sources or evidence to support its claims. We found a Los Angeles Times article that does say Kasowitz, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, charges $ 1,500 an hour for his legal services. But the Times didn’t mention that he would charge Trump $ 10,000 an hour — which would be a 567 percent fee increase, not a 1,500 percent increase — or that taxpayers would foot the bill.

In fact, the Washington Post reported that Trump can’t use federal funds to pay Kasowitz for any work that he does. “The White House did not respond this week to requests for comment about how Trump would pay for his outside legal team, the cost of which cannot be covered by the federal government,” the Post wrote on May 23.

There was a provision in an expired ethics law that once allowed presidents to be reimbursed for some legal costs. President Bill Clinton sought to recover $ 3.5 million in legal fees from the Whitewater investigation, but was only reimbursed $ 85,312. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also were each reimbursed for legal fees in the Iran-Contra investigation. In those cases, the past presidents were operating under the Ethics in Government Act, which was enacted in 1978 after the Watergate scandal but expired in 1999.

Politico reported that obtaining reimbursements from the government for legal fees is now “off the table” for Trump and his staff. The Russia investigation is being conducted under the special-prosecutor regulations.

Claire Finkelstein, University of Pennsylvania Law School professor and director of the school’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, told us that “there is currently no legal provision that would allow President Trump to receive assistance with or reimbursement for his personal legal fees in defending against either obstruction of justice charges or charges relating to potential collusion with Russia in subverting the 2016 election.”

In addition, the ViralCords.com story also wrongly claims that “this is the first time a president has retained a personal lawyer even though the President has an entire counsel of attorneys; 106 in total.”

Clinton hired David Kendall as his personal attorney during the Whitewater investigation and during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998. And though the current White House legal team includes about two dozen attorneys — not 106 —  the New York Times reported that it was Trump’s own advisers who urged him to retain outside counsel for the Russia probe.

ViralCords.com doesn’t feature a disclaimer indicating that content on its website is made up or intended as satire. But the “about” section of its Facebook page says it’s an “entertainment website,” and other posts on the website are clearly satirical — such as “Jeff Sessions Fired: Returns to Office to Find Trump’s Sock on Door Knob” or “Leaked NASA Memo: Trump Could Turn Alien First Contact Into Interstellar War.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.

Sources

Trump’s Personal Lawyer Costing Taxpayers $ 10,000 Per Hour.” ViralCords.com. 10 Jun 2017.

Viral Cords. “About.” Facebook.com. Accessed 20 Jun 2017.

Jeff Sessions Fired: Returns to Office to Find Trump’s Sock on Door Knob.” Viralcords.com. 15 Jun 2017.

Leaked NASA Memo: Trump Could Turn Alien First Contact Into Interstaller War.” ViralCords.com. 28 May 2017.

Randazzo, Sara. “Donald Trump’s Go-To Guy for His Toughest Legal Battles.” Wall Street Journal. 10 Jan 2017.

Demick, Barbara. “Marc Kasowitz helped Trump through bankruptcy and divorce. Now he’s taking on the biggest case of his career.” Los Angeles Times. 24 May 2017.

Wagner, John, and Parker, Ashley. “Trump retains outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz to help with Russia investigations.” Washington Post. 23 May 2017.

Baker, Peter. “From Whitewater to Email: the Clintons’ Dogged Lawyer.” New York Times. 23 Aug 2015.

Samuelsohn, Darren. “West Wing aides brace for big attorney bills.” Politico. 20 May 2017.

Haberman, Maggie, and Thrush, Glenn. “Advisers Urge Trump to Hire Outside Lawyer in Russia Inquiry.” New York  Times. 10 May 2017.

Finkelstein, Claire. University of Pennsylvania Law School professor. Email sent to FactCheck.org on 23 Jun 2017.

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