Pence retains outside counsel as Russia probes deepen

Vice President Mike Pence has retained his own attorney as two congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow.

Pence has retained as outside counsel Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuire Woods, the vice president’s office confirmed on Thursday.

"I can confirm that the Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel. The Vice President is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the President’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter,” Jarrod Agen, Pence’s communications director, said in a statement to POLITICO.

Pence considered several candidates to provide legal counsel and selected Cullen earlier this week. The Washington Post was the first to report the news.

Cullen served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia under President George H.W. Bush and later as Virginia’s attorney general. He also served as former Sen. Paul Trible’s special counsel during the Iran-Contra affair and worked on the staff of former Rep. M. Caldwell Butler during the Watergate investigation. Rounding out his legal bonafides, Cullen worked on George W. Bush’s legal team during the contested 2000 presidential election.

Pence has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. He chaired Trump’s transition, which included hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser. Flynn was later fired for allegedly misleading Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. Pence also defended Trump’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, pointing to recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But Trump later said that he would have fired Comey regardless of those recommendations and that he had the Russian investigation in mind when he made the decision.

That firing has prompted Mueller to reportedly look into whether Trump obstructed justice by firing his FBI director and in his earlier attempts to get Comey to drop an investigation into Flynn. Trump denies the latter, even though Comey described the conversation in congressional testimony.

Comey testified that the vice president was among the officials in the Oval Office whom Trump asked to leave before he allegedly requested that the then-FBI director “let this go,” referring to the federal probe into Flynn. Pence is among many senior White House aides likely to be questioned by Mueller’s investigators as they look into potential obstruction of justice.

“Anybody in the presence of the president when the room was cleared” should expect a Mueller call seeking an interview, said Lanny Davis, a former senior Clinton White House legal adviser.

Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.


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