U.S. seeks probe of Trump-allied lawyer’s funding of Oath Keepers defense

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to initiate an ethics investigation into whether defense attorneys for prominent members of the right-week Oath Keepers wrongly authorize a lawyer closely linked to the former President Donald Trump to help pay their legal fees.

The Justice Department’s court filing cited news reports alleging that Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes’ legal fees are being paid by Defending the Republic, an entity controlled by Sidney Powell, a lawyer who played a key role in Trump’s bid to undo his election defeat. The group is also paying costs for accused Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, Connie Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson, he said.

The payments, if proven, could violate rules of professional conduct limiting methods of compensation for attorneys in the District of Columbia, prosecutors said.

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Under these rules, defense attorneys must only accept payments from their own clients unless three conditions are met: the client must give informed consent, representation information must be protected, and the The third party fee arrangement cannot cause “interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment or with the lawyer-client relationship”.

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rhodes and the Oath Keepers are due to stand trial in September on charges of seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

More than 840 people have been charged with taking part in the Capitol riot in which Trump supporters tried to prevent certification of his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden, attacking police and d ‘send lawmakers rushing for safety.

“The government is filing this motion because it has an interest and an obligation to ensure that it represents its client, the United States,” prosecutors wrote Wednesday. “These duties include raising potential conflicts with the Court as they arise.”

Powell’s group, Defend the Republic, has since received a grand jury subpoena seeking financial documents as part of a Justice Department investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Brad Heath; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio

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