U.S. Vice President Pence received legal defense fund from Florida lawyer

By Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is the beneficiary of a legal defense fund set up to aid in expenses related to the 2016 election, according to disclosures the vice president made public on Thursday.

The fund has $25 in it, according to the disclosure.

To donate to the fund, supporters will have to complete a series of certifications, including that Pence himself did not solicit the contribution, according to a White House official.

Donors will also have to verify that they are American citizens, they are not a lobbyist and the money is from their personal wealth, not a corporation, the official said.

Additionally, federal employees, federal government contractors and registered agents for a foreign government will also be prohibited from donating.

Federal ethics laws that prohibit accepting excessive gifts have made it difficult for officials to raise money for defense funds. Past presidents, including President Bill Clinton, have formed legal defense funds, avoiding rules by disclosing individual donors and prohibiting contributions from lobbyists.

President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign has been the subject of intense scrutiny after critics said those close to the president colluded with Russian operatives to influence the outcome of the election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller released a report in April that determined there was not enough evidence to charge Trump or those near him with criminal conspiracy related to collusion.

The investigation saw dozens of Trump campaign employees and associates called before investigators, a grand jury and congressional panels. Obtaining private attorneys to assist in the interviews has caused some to rack up large legal bills.

The vice president is required to file an annual personal financial disclosure that details income and liabilities.

New to the report this year was the defense fund, named the MRP Legal Expense Trust Fund.

According to a footnote, James D. Atterholt of Florida created the fund on Dec. 10, 2018 to make payments “in connection with the 2016 presidential election and related

matters.”

The $25 payment to the fund was made to establish the trust, the footnote said.

“The Trust had no other assets, received no other contributions, and produced no income during the reporting period,” the footnote said.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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