Pence hires outside counsel for Russia probe

Vice President Pence has hired an outside attorney to help handle inquiries relating to federal investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Pence has retained the services of Richmond, Va.-based attorney Richard Cullen, the chairman of the law firm McGuire Woods.

“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,” Pence spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement.

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“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 picked the attorney earlier this week, following a several-week selection process that included interviews with several possible choices, an aide told The Washington Post, which first reported the news Thursday.

Pence will not use taxpayer funds to pay for the attorney, according to The Post.

The development comes less than a month after President Trump hired attorney Marc Kasowitz as outside counsel to assist him in the ongoing Russia probes.

The Post reported on Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal probe of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, had expanded his investigation to include an inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

Trump on Thursday railed against the reported expansion of the federal probe on Twitter, questioning why Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE wasn't the subject of the Russia-related investigations but he was.

“Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?” Trump wrote, referencing the past investigation into Clinton’s private email server she used as secretary of State.

Trump has come under increased scrutiny over the past month in the wake of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the federal investigation into Russian election meddling before he was ousted in early May.

In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that aired days after Comey’s termination, Trump acknowledged that the Russia probe was on his mind when he decided to fire the FBI chief. News reports later revealed that Trump had told visiting Russian officials that firing Comey relieved him of “great pressure” because of the investigation.

Investigators are also reportedly interested in a February meeting between Trump and Comey, in which the president pressed the then-FBI director to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

– Jordan Fabian contributed

Updated: 5:44 p.m.