President Donald Trump’s legal team has done work out of the Capitol Hill offices of a conservative nonprofit group run by one of the president’s lawyers.
Two sources familiar with the situation say attorneys representing the president in the probe into Russian election meddling have met at and worked out of the headquarters of the American Center for Law and Justice, a 501(c)(3) legal advocacy nonprofit run by Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s legal team.
A spokesperson for the ACLJ did not dispute this report.
"The American Center for Law and Justice has maintained a Washington D.C. office for many years,” said Gene Kapp, a spokesperson for the organization. “The work done by the ACLJ is separate and distinct from the work performed by those who serve as Counsel to the President. Any non-ACLJ related work that occurs at the ACLJ offices is reimbursed in compliance with all applicable tax laws.”
From a strictly legal perspective, the arrangement appears above board, so long as ACLJ is charging market rates to rent the space, according to Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform programs at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog.
“The only way this would be an issue is if ACLJ was offering its services at less than fair market value, or using ACLJ resources without being compensated” by the president, the White House, or the Trump campaign, Fischer said in an email.
As Sekulow represents the president in matters related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, ACLJ has also pursued litigation that, while not directly related to that investigation, aligns with efforts by the president and his allies to deflect from allegations that the Russian government worked to elect Trump in 2016.
ACLJ is currently suing the State Department for records related to U.S. approval for the sale of a Canadian mining company with U.S. uranium interests to a state-owned Russian energy firm. A large shareholder in the Canadian company, Uranium One, was also a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, leading to allegations by President Trump and his allies that Clinton facilitated the sale to Russian firm Rosatom in exchange for contributions to her group.
Clinton’s State Department was just one of nine federal agencies that signed off on the sale. Nevertheless, President Trump has repeatedly invoked the controversy to deflect from allegations that his campaign may have colluded with Russian actors to tip the presidential election in his favor. Congressional Republicans and outside allies have demanded a second special counsel to investigate issues surrounding Clinton’s role in the Uranium One deal.
ACLJ has worked to boost other major talking points used by critics of Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign. A number of those critics allege a conspiracy by agents of the “deep state”—career bureaucrats and intelligence and law enforcement officials—to undermine the Trump administration.
On its website, ACLJ hosts a petition asking for support in its “legal demands and lawsuits against the deep state bureaucracy.” That bureaucracy, it claims, is perpetrating a “soft coup” against the U.S. government.
The ACLJ also works on conservative Christian priorities, including litigation for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers and protesters who picket abortion clinics. The organization has long drawn scorching criticism from LGBT rights advocates. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that states could not ban same-sex couples from having sex, Sekulow said he disagreed with the ruling.
“By providing constitutional protection to same-sex sodomy, the Supreme Court strikes a damaging blow for the traditional family that will only intensify the legal battle to protect marriage and the traditional family,” Sekulow said at the time, per Human Rights Campaign.
Sekulow’s group also petitioned for the release of the controversial Nunes memo, which it described as documenting “deep state abuses.”
And Sekulow and his family members have been compensated handsomely by the charities he helms. Sekulow and his family members made $33 million from his charities from 1998 to 2011, according to The Tennessean.