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Trump appoints special counsel on Russia probe

WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump has announced the appointment of a former federal prosecutor as special counsel, with US media reporting that he would manage issues linked to the Russia probe.

The brief White House statement said Ty Cobb — a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells in Washington — will serve as a “key member of the White House staff” as special counsel.

He will handle White House media responses stemming from ongoing investigations into Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion, multiple US media reports said.

The announcement of Cobb’s hiring comes after a tumultuous week in Washington that saw allegations over Russia’s role in the vote intensify, following reports that the US president’s eldest son took a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was said to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Cobb will coordinate with Trump’s outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who is representing the president in connection to the Russia probe, according to ABC News.

Trump’s campaign paid $50,000 to the law office now representing Donald Trump Jr, a little more than a week before news surfaced of an unreported meeting with a Russian attorney that has prompted new accusations of collusion.

The payment to the Law Offices of Alan S. Futerfas, dated June 27, was disclosed in a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday. It was described as covering “legal consulting” fees.

Trump Jr admitted to meeting a Russian lawyer in New York City during the 2016 presidential campaign after he was told she might have damaging information about his father’s rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The payment was made to Futerfas’ firm days before the story about the meeting broke, which caused a scramble inside the White House and Trump Tower to contain it.

The disclosures do not say who Futerfas was hired to represent. Spokesmen for Trump’s re-election campaign and Futerfas did not respond to requests for comment.

Futerfas was revealed as Trump Jr’s lawyer on Monday after a New York Times report detailed meetings between the president’s eldest son and the Russian lawyer. Futerfas has not said when he was hired.

Separately, the campaign also paid more than $538,000 to Jones Day, the law firm that represented Trump’s campaign during the election. The campaign also paid $89,561 for “legal consulting” to The Trump Corporation, which is owned by the president. The payment was dated June 30.

A federal special counsel and several congressional panels are investigating allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, as well as potential connections between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Moscow has denied any interference and the president and Trump Jr have denied any collusion.

The Federal Election Commission has previously ruled that candidates and federal office holders may spend campaign funds on legal fees incurred because they were a candidate.

Reuters