The Washington Post reports that Vice President Mike Pence has hired a personal lawyer to help him navigate the Trump-Russia investigation crisis that has made headlines every day that Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been in office. The outlet also notes that the Trump-Russia investigation, which is examining Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, has broadened in scope and includes five major branches.
Last month, Donald Trump hired a personal lawyer to assist him in this crisis. This week, after weeks of interviewing and searching for the right candidate, Vice President Mike Pence followed suit by hiring lawyer Richard Cullen. Today, when asked about hiring a lawyer by White House pool reporter Philip Ruckey, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, Mike Pence reportedly said it was “[v]ery routine. Very routine.”
Richard Cullen is a senior litigator with McGuire Woods out of Virginia and has decades of experience working with criminal matters. He is the former attorney general of the Eastern District of Virginia and also served as special prosecutor for the Iran-Contra hearings. He also served on the staff of Republican Congressman Rep. Caldwell Butler during the Watergate scandal in the Richard Nixon administration.
Asked by pool reporter @PhilipRucker about hiring a private attorney, VP Pence said, "It's very routine. Very routine."
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 16, 2017
The Washington Post notes that a spokesperson for the vice president’s office issued an emailed statement on the matter.
“I can confirm that the Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel. The Vice President is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the President’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter.”
The Washington Post notes that Mike Pence will be paying personally for his attorney, not the taxpayers. Hiring the attorney is a decision that comes less than one month after Donald Trump hired his own personal attorney, Mark Kasowitz, to navigate the same crisis.
Donald Trump’s lawyer was hired one day after it was reported that special counsel Robert Mueller III would be widening his investigation to determine whether the president of the United States obstructed justice in the Trump-Russia matter.
The Washington Post notes there are currently five investigations in place on the Trump-Russia matter. Four are happening in the House of Representatives, with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Oversight Committee. The Department of Justice and the special counsel is the fifth investigation into the matter.
The New York Times reported this week that obstruction of justice may not be the only problem in this case, as Robert Mueller’s investigation is also looking at money laundering “by Trump associates.”
The New York Times notes, “The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably routing them through offshore banking centers.”
The Guardian reports that Robert Mueller is stacking his special counsel team with experts who take a “follow the money” approach, in addition to experts familiar with high-profile investigations such as Watergate. One of Robert Mueller’s team members is Lisa Page, who has a record of “investigating Russian and former Soviet organized crime.”
Andrew Weissmann is also on the team. He is an organized crime expert who has investigated the “complex financial dealings of Enron,” which was considered the most complex white-collar crime in FBI history. That case also led to federal convictions of top Enron management.
Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy assistant secretary for policy in homeland security, said, “What is striking to me is that his team is a counter-intelligence team and is a money fraud, banking, laundering-type team.”
Donald Trump called the Trump-Russia investigation a “witch hunt” as recently as today on Twitter.
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
A National Security memo is also circulating that says Donald Trump reportedly asked the former deputy director of the NSA, Rick Ledgett, in a phone call to “say there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials,” reported the Wall Street Journal this week. The New York Times reports that Bob Mueller intends on interviewing Rick Ledgett about this matter.
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) June 15, 2017
How, or if, Vice President Pence is related to any of that remains to be seen. The Washington Post reports that it took Mike Pence many weeks to find the right lawyer, which included interviews with many candidates. Richard Cullen is an attorney with an impressive experience.
According to Richard Cullen’s bio on the website for McGuire Woods, Richard Cullen served as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia during the President George H. W. Bush Administration. During the President George W. Bush Administration, he served on the legal team during the 2000 Florida recount of the presidential election. Cullen also represented Elin Nordegren in her divorce from Tiger Woods.
The Washington Post reports that Cullen also served as attorney of record for former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay when DeLay was investigated by the Department of Justice for his relationship with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Democratic Coalition referred to this case as money laundering.
The Democratic Coalition also revealed that Cullen’s law firm, McGuire Woods, has 40 lawyers and consultants representing Russian clientele.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) June 15, 2017
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) June 15, 2017
Cullen served as attorney of record for Republican Paul Trible during the Iran-Contra hearings. The McGuire Woods website also says that Cullen served on the staff of Congress during the Watergate scandal. He is no stranger to high-profile investigations or “small world connections,” as the Washington Post notes.
Richard Cullen has worked with former FBI Director James Comey before and is also the godfather to one of James Comey’s daughters. Donald Trump’s attorney, Mark Kasowitz, does not have a favorable view of James Comey when representing his client, the president.
He held a press conference after James Comey’s recent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, accusing Comey of being an illegal leaker. Watch that statement here.
Mike Pence called the hiring of this attorney as “routine, very routine” today, according to Philip Ruckey of the White House pool. Mike Pence has not been accused of anything outright in the Trump-Russia investigation, but he has gone on record in March of this year to say he has not heard of things such as Mike Flynn lobbying with Turkey.
This statement is demonstrably false, as Mike Pence received a letter from the House Oversight Committee in November of 2016 advising him of these lobbying concerns the committee cited as a “serious matter.” When Mike Flynn was fired, it was alleged that he had conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the removal of sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama Administration.
The sanctions had been applied against Russia when the intelligence community confirmed absolutely that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
Mike Flynn initially said he did not have those conversations with the Russian ambassador. Mike Pence repeated that statement.
Mike Flynn then went on record to say that he lied, and that he lied to Mike Pence about this. The White House’s position is that Mike Pence had never heard of this before either and did not know that Mike Flynn was lying about conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The White House position on the Mike Flynn firing is that he was fired for lying to Mike Pence, not for having these conversations with Russia.
It is not “without precedent” for a vice president to retain legal counsel during the course of such an investigation, the Washington Post notes. Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, did the same when under investigation of charges of conspiracy, bribery, tax fraud, and extortion.
He ultimately resigned from the position and pleaded no contest to tax evasion. Vice President Al Gore did not retain legal counsel during President Clinton’s impeachment hearings.
[Feature Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]