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VERIFY: Do taxpayers cover President Trump's legal fees during impeachment trial?

The Verify team was asked to look into whether taxpayers are on the hook for costs relating to the impeachment trial, including President Trump's legal fees.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION: 

Are taxpayers on the hook for former President Donald Trump's legal fees in the upcoming impeachment trial? 

ANSWER:

No. 

The Verify team spoke with a trio of legal and legislative experts who said that the president was responsible for paying for his legal fees, just as he was in the first impeachment trial. 

The White House counsel on President Trump's legal team during the first impeachment trial was receiving payment through his traditional salary. Now that President Trump is out of office, he would not have access to White House Counsel. 

SOURCE:

OUR PROCESS:

With the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump set to begin in a matter of weeks, the Verify team is tackling numerous questions from viewers. 

One viewer from West Virginia wrote the team, asking the following: 

“If Donald Trump’s trial for impeachment starts after he’s out of office, is he responsible for his own legal fees? Or do tax payers bear the burden?" 

To find the answer, the Verify team reached out to a trio of experts, specializing in legal and legislative issues. Robert Peck, an attorney from the Center For Constitutional Litigation said this was a clear-cut issue. 

"The public official being impeached does not have the right to have the government pay for it,” he said. 

Our other legal expert, Paul Schiff Berman from The George Washington University Law School, agreed. 

"Government money is not used to pay his legal fees," he said. 

Our experts explained that President Trump’s legal fees were not covered by the taxpayers during the first impeachment as well. 

“Last time around it was the Republican National Committee that raised the funds," said Peck. "It’s possible they’re doing so again.” 

During the first impeachment trial, the White House Counsel did receive his normal salary, which is covered by taxpayers. However, he did not receive any additional money for representing President Trump. 

"Taxpayers continued to pay his salary," said Peck. "He did this as part of his job. So there were no additional fees as a result of that."

Now that President Donald Trump is out of office, he will not have access to White House Counsel.

Are taxpayers on the hook for other impeachment trial expenses?

Our Verify team experts said that for the most part the costs of an impeachment trial are already covered. Members of Congress, Senators, and their staff are already on salaries. 

"Really the only cost will be Senator’s sleep time,” said Berman.

On Jan. 15, the House Judiciary Committee announced that they were hiring two lawyers on a 'consulting basis,' for the trial. 

"Barry H. Berke, Esq. and Joshua Matz, Esq have been retained on a consulting basis as counsels to the Majority Staff," a Jan. 15 press release read. "To support the Committee's Oversight Counsel team on matters related to the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump."

Steve Ellis, the President of Taxpayers For Common Sense, a spending watchdog, said that these lawyers will be paid out of the 'operations account,' which is already budgeted. 

"The funding is all -- pretty baked in," he said. "It’s not like they’re having to grab extra cash to do this.”