Amid news that President Donald Trump’s White House aides are under investigation, low-level staffers may have to add high legal costs and loopholes barring them from receiving free counsel to the long list of difficulties brought on by their boss.
Staffers of past presidents under investigation have, according to the report, been subject to legal fees that can go as high as hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. White collar lawyers can cost up to $1,500 an hour, and most low-level staffers without personal or familial deep pockets may struggle to pay for lawyers of that caliber.
According to the report, Trump staff under investigation by Mueller will not be able to access White House general counsel, nor are they likely to be reimbursed by the Justice Department, which on occasion reimburses federal employees if their counsel is “in the interest of the United States”.
According to a former Trump campaign aide, staffers should hire attorneys sooner rather than later.
“I do think people should be lawyering up,” Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, told POLITICO. “Just being on the campaign trail with Flynn you have to lawyer up. The FBI doing its due diligence has to ask you about the contact and what he said to you.”
Due to the nature of the investigation and the ethics laws surrounding it, there are even rules for the type of outside counsel staffers acquire — if they do get legal help from friends or family, they “must detail that help as a gift on their next financial disclosures forms”.
Even with help paying for fees, the report continues, getting counsel for such major and potentially lengthy investigations will never be cheap.
“Even at sharply discounted rates, and associates doing the work, it’s prohibitively expensive for a normal human being,” Norm Eisen, former chief ethics lawyer in President Barack Obama’s White House, told POLITICO. “Its financially ruinous. It’s personally devastating.”
Although some believe that Trump should pay for for his subordinates’ legal fees, to do so could constitute a conflict of interest, because, according to the report, “the president would be raising money for a subordinate who’s a witness in a case that could implicate him.”
“The optics would be terrible,” William Jeffress, a Washington white collar lawyer, told POLITICO. “It appears you’re trying to influence the testimony of employees. It’s just a bad thing to do.”
Read a tweet from CNN reporter Jim Acosta below about a staffer who believes the president should pay for his attorney.
Talked to a former Trump campaign staffer who has hired attorney in Russia probe and feels Trump himself should help pay for legal costs…
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 20, 2017