President Trump is moving to set up a plan to personally pay for his and his staff’s legal bills, taking a page from former President Bill Clinton who raised millions to pay his bills but reneged on a promise to cover the bills of those he chased out of work in the “Travelgate” scandal.
In taking care of himself, Clinton raised $1.3 million from thousands of donors as he fought multiple scandals before the Monica Lewinsky affair.
His White House also promised to sign a bill before Congress to cover the legal fees of those fired in the Travelgate scandal but then reneged when the key figure was found innocent of wrongdoing.
During a heated Aug. 1, 1996 Rose Garden press conference, he first brushed off paying for the bills in a question from CBS correspondent Bill Plante. It then turned heated when he took my questions. At the time I was working for the Washington Times and had covered the Travelgate trial which ended in acquittal the day before:
Bill Plante: Mr. President, will you call on the Senate to resurrect the bill to pay the legal expenses of the people who were fired from the Travel Office? Democrats seem to have blocked it. And will you call on them to pass it? And will you sign it if it gets here?
THE PRESIDENT: Well I told you before, there are a lot of people who were never even charged with anything, much less offering to plead guilty to anything, who have been dragooned and pulled up and had thousands and tens of thousands of dollars of legal expenses, who were completely innocent, but have been subject to abject harassment. And I said before when you asked me that question, are we going to pay their legal expenses, too? Are we going to pay the legal expenses of every person in America who is ever acquitted of an offense?
So, no I'm not going to call upon them to bring it up again. If they send it to my desk, it depends — whether I sign it or not depends upon whose legal expenses are included and whether it's a fair and balanced bill.
Paul Bedard: Sir, does that mean you're going back on your promise? Your White House said earlier, in fact this morning, Mr. Toiv said that if it came here, you would sign it.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he didn't talk to me before he said that.
Bedard: So, you wouldn't sign it?
THE PRESIDENT: I didn't say that. I said, I don't know what's going to be in it. But I don't believe that we should give special preference to one group of people over others. Do you? Do you?
Bedard: You said you would do this earlier, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you think we should -- do you think that Congress should pay for the legal expenses for all these middle class people that they harassed and brought up there and cost them tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses when they never even accused them of doing anything, and they certainly never offered to plead guilty to anything? Do you believe that?
Bedard: I just wanted to know if you were going to keep your word, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I didn't -- I never gave my word on that. You go back and see what I said when I was asked that question. I asked, are they going to pay the expenses of anybody else. That's what I said. Don't talk to me -- go back and see what I said. What did I say? What word did I give, sir?
Bedard: Your spokesman, sir, was asked --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, my spokesman -- they do a very good job, but I have made clear to Mr. McCurry what my position is on this. And if an error was made by my spokesman, I'm sorry. But I have not broken my word to anybody. I have been asked about this one time, and I asked whether we were going to provide for other people's legal expenses who were never accused of anything and who did not offer to plead guilty to anything. And I have heard nothing about that. So the answer to your question is, I do not know what I will do if such a bill comes to my desk, but I have no intention of asking Congress to interrupt its work on Kennedy-Kassebaum, on the minimum wage, on anti-terrorism, to get involved in this. No, I do not.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com