by Chuck Ross
Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo is opening up his legal defense fund to other campaign aides ensnared in the multiple investigations into possible collusion with Russia.
Caputo, a longtime Republican political consultant, started the fund to help cover $125,000 in legal bills he’s racked up over the course of the Russia investigation, which he considers a “witch hunt.”
The grassroots fundraising campaign has far surpassed Caputo’s initial goal, drawing in over $330,000 from more than 6,400 donors.
Caputo said he’s opening up the Michael Caputo Legal Fund to witnesses interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller and the three congressional committees investigating the campaign.
Military veterans and Trump associates with more limited financial means are a priority, he said.
“We’re looking for people who can’t afford their legal fees because we think that is in keeping with the wishes of the people who donated in the first place,” Caputo, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who served on President Donald Trump’s campaign until June 2016, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We’re not looking for hedge fund guys and millionaires.”
Caputo’s focus on veterans is one reason he picked J.D. Gordon, a former naval commander, Pentagon spokesman and director of Trump’s national security advisory committee.
Gordon has been interviewed by the special counsel’s office as well as the House Intelligence, Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees. Though he has been told he is not a target of the investigations, his role on the campaign put him at the center of several of the areas being scrutinized in the parallel probes.
The costs of document production and consultation with attorneys has led to legal bills in the “low five-figure” range, Gordon said.
“I’m delighted to see so many thousands of grassroots activists from around America answer your call to help a true patriot who has been victimized by the witch hunt of the century,” Gordon wrote to Ralph Lorigo, one of the attorneys helping with Caputo’s legal fund.
“Though my personal legal costs have been relatively minor compared to others also wrongly targeted for a political inquisition, as Michael knows, these funds are coming directly out of my military pension as a retired Navy Commander,” Gordon added.
In addition to raising funds for Trump associates, Caputo and Gordon are planning to tour the country giving speeches to grassroots organizations about their experiences at the center of the Russia firestorm.
Their main message will be that if Democrats gain control of Congress in November, they expect immediate impeachment proceedings against Trump. Democrats such as California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, have already signaled they plan to expand the Russia investigation if they take control of Congress.
Besides helping Trump associates avoid legal debt, Caputo said he hopes his legal fund will help witnesses come forward to talk more openly about the Russia investigations.
Witnesses have been afraid of speaking out for fear of being called back to testify before Congress or to meet the special prosecutor, he said. Each appearance can easily generate thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees.
The usually outspoken Caputo is a prime example of that reticence to discuss his interactions with investigators, especially those on the special counsel’s team.
After his interview with Mueller’s prosecutors earlier this month, he was uncharacteristically reserved in his comments about what was discussed in his three-hour meeting. He praised prosecutors for their professionalism and issued vague warnings about the seriousness of the probe. He withheld his true thoughts about the lack of evidence of collusion; that is, until he raised enough money to pay his attorney, a former Justice Department prosecutor.
“I couldn’t afford the legal fees. Now that people have got my back I’m able to go out and speak freely because I don’t care if they call me back in. I don’t care,” Caputo told TheDCNF.
The fund is controlled by three trustees, Caputo said and that he is only able to access funds for his own legal fight.
Caputo also revealed on Wednesday that he will offer financial support to any FBI agents willing to speak to the Justice Department’s inspector general, which is investigating the bureau’s handling of the Russia investigation.
“We’ll pay their legal fees. If they go to the inspector general, reveal what happened, we’ll pay their legal fees,” Caputo said on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Caputo was responding to a report in The Daily Caller that FBI agents are hoping for subpoenas from the inspector general in order to share what they know about how top FBI officials handled the investigation.
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