Lawyer Fees and Loopholes
In the president’s view, the Russia investigations are a “rigged witch hunt.” But this doesn’t mean that people in Trumpworld can dismiss them. Special counsel Robert Mueller has already secured indictments or guilty pleas from more than a dozen people, and there are two concurrent congressional investigations. It’s a field day for Washington defense lawyers, and the costs of even basic legal representation can get pretty high. What’s a low-level White House staffer to do?
The Patriot fund’s “solution” is to identify all donations for federal employees and redirect any money from prohibited sources toward non-federal employees under investigation. But as Walter Shaub, a former director of the ethics office, points out, “money is fungible.” “Every dollar the fund accepts from a questionable source and pays to a nongovernmental beneficiary frees up a dollar for those who do work for the government,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in February.
Shaub, who was appointed to the top job at the ethics office by Barack Obama in 2013, resigned last year and has since become a sharp critic of the Trump administration. He says the structure of the fund allows the people running it to violate federal ethics rules and to misrepresent the interests of donors.