CNBC: Trump's Lawyer in Mueller Probe, John Dowd, Cited for Trump Campaign Contribution Above the Legal Max
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, contributed more money last year to the president's re-election campaign than is legally permissible, according to a recent letter from the Federal Election Commission to the Trump campaign.
Dowd is Trump's lead counsel, charged with crafting the president's response to the special counsel's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A veteran white-collar defense attorney and a politically active Republican, Dowd's understanding of how Washington works has made him a key member of the president's legal team.
But a March 8 letter from the FEC to Bradley Crate, the Trump campaign treasurer, put the campaign on notice that there were 108 donors who had made "excessive, prohibited and impermissible" contributions to the Trump campaign in the last quarter of 2017. Dowd's name appeared on this list, below. The X is for donations that require additional details.
It's not uncommon for individual donors to accidentally contribute more to a candidate than the legal maximum of $2,700. But Dowd's case is unusual, both because of the donor and because of the date, said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
"These kinds of errors are understandable when made in the midst of a hectic election season by a rookie campaign. But they become more difficult to understand when made by a second-term presidential candidate 32 months out from his next election," Fischer told CNBC. "And it is even more difficult to understand how the president's lawyer managed to exceed contribution limits."
"Not accepting contributions that exceed federal limits is one of the most basic responsibilities for a campaign committee, although we can expect that campaigns bringing in a high volume of contributions will make some errors," Campaign Legal Center's Fischer said.
Individual donor limits, however, are not Fischer's chief concern when it comes to the burgeoning Trump 2020 campaign operation, he said.
"The Trump campaign's reckless record keeping is less problematic to me than its close association with the dark money group America First Policies," Fischer said, referring to a nonprofit group closely aligned with the Trump White House, which CNBC reported on earlier this month.