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Steve Bannon racked up more than $1 million in legal fees during the Russia investigation — then asked Trump’s DOJ to reimburse him : politics

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As President Donald Trump reluctantly prepared to leave the White House, his one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon asked the Justice Department for a taxpayer-funded reimbursement of the hefty legal fees he incurred in connection with the Russia investigation, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“It is our understanding that the White House supports reimbursing Mr. Bannon’s attorneys’ fees,” Bannon’s defense lawyer, William Burck, wrote on New Year’s Eve 2020 to the Justice Department. “We are in the process of obtaining a written statement confirming the White House’s agreement and will provide it to you as soon as possible.”

Burck provided invoices to DOJ dating back to early 2018 with an almost hour-by-hour chronicle of his work on Bannon’s behalf during the Russia investigation.

An Insider review of the invoices shows Bannon racked up more than $1 million in legal fees between 2018 and 2020 as he sat for hours of questioning from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, responded to congressional inquiries about Russian interference in the 2016 election and testified in the November 2019 trial of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.

It was during that same time period that Bannon became involved in a fundraising effort called We Build the Wall, which purported to support Trump’s signature effort to erect a wall along the US border with Mexico. In August 2020, federal prosecutors charged Bannon with defrauding donors by promising that “100 percent” of the funds would be used for wall construction when, in fact, he personally received more than $1 million, much of which he used for personal expenses.

Trump’s Justice Department never acted on Bannon’s bid for his legal fees’ reimbursement. In an email to Insider, Burck said the Biden-led Justice Department denied Bannon’s request.

Acting DOJ civil division head Brian Boynton made the denial decision, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The department’s civil division handles requests from current and former government officials for the reimbursement of outside attorneys’ fees. When DOJ approves reimbursements, it generally does so at a fraction of the hourly rates charged by premier white-collar defense lawyers.

Bannon could not be reached for comment

‘The Russia Probe’s most popular lawyer’

Burck’s pursuit of a reimbursement for Bannon came two months after the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found that the attorney general has the power to authorize such payments.

In an October 2020 opinion, the Office of Legal Counsel said current or former federal government officials could be reimbursed for their attorneys’ fees if they met with the Mueller team “under threat of subpoena about information the person acquired in the course of his government duties.” The office’s opinion also noted that “a number of current and former federal employees interviewed by the Special Counsel are expected to make requests for reimbursement of attorney’s fees.”

But only Bannon’s bid for reimbursement surfaced from a public records request seeking documentation of former Mueller witnesses asking the Justice Department to cover attorneys’ fees.

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