U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer known for defending government officials in high-profile investigations to help him with probes into whether there were ties between the election campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia, his office said on Thursday, reports Reuters.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow interfered in last year’s presidential campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor.
Trump, who hired his own lawyer last month for probes by a special counsel and congressional committees, lashed out on Thursday after a report that he was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice.
He dismissed as “phony” the idea that his campaign colluded with any Russian effort to sway the 2016 election. Moscow denies meddling in the campaign.
Pence hired Richard Cullen, chairman of law firm McGuireWoods, to help him respond to inquiries from special counsel Robert Mueller, a spokesman said.
Cullen is a former federal prosecutor who has long ties to former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired on May 9. He represents former FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the corruption probe into world soccer’s governing body. U.S. prosecutors have not accused Blatter of wrongdoing.
Cullen, who supported Trump’s rival Jeb Bush during the race for the Republican presidential nomination, also represented Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican and former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, during the investigation into corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. DeLay was not charged.
Pence had been looking at hiring his own counsel for several weeks, and made his decision earlier this week after interviewing several candidates, his office said.
“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,” Pence spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said in a statement.
Pence has seldom addressed the Russia issue, which has overshadowed Trump’s efforts to overhaul the health care system, cut taxes and boost jobs – priorities that Pence has worked on intensively with Republican lawmakers.
The Washington Post first reported the Cullen hire. Just before the story broke, Trump wrote a pair of angry tweets, suggesting that Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the election, should be under investigation instead of him.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump called the probe a “witch hunt” on Twitter. “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump wrote.