Vice President Mike Pence has retained a personal defense lawyer as the FBI's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election heats up.
Pence's office announced on June 15 that the vice president has hired Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuireWoods LLP and a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, confirming a report by The Washington Post.
"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's communication director Jarrod Agen said.
Cullen was special counsel to former Republican Sen. Paul Trible of Virginia during the Iran-contra scandal in the 1980s and served on former President George W. Bush's legal team during the 2000 Florida recount, according to KRQE.
The New York Times reports that Cullen worked on the staff of Republican Rep. M. Caldwell Butler of Virginia during Watergate. Butler was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and cast a critical vote to impeach then-President Richard Nixon, who resigned several weeks later.
Pence reportedly considered a number of lawyers before hiring Cullen. Neither office would say why the vice president suddenly chose to lawyer up, with Pence's office directing questions to Cullen's office, which directed question's back to Pence's, according to KRQE.
While Pence is most likely in the margins of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign and administration, the presence of special counsel Robert Mueller means that Pence will almost certainly be questioned by investigators and will therefore need legal advice on how to navigate his way through the various inquiries.
Julie O'Sullivan, a law professor at Georgetown University who worked on the Whitewater case, said it is not unusual for individuals in Pence's position to hire lawyers under such circumstances.
"Whenever a Washington scandal breaks that comes close to the White House, you have people at all levels scrambling for a good white-collar lawyer," O'Sullivan told The New York Times.
She added that it's a good idea for anyone brought in to testify before a grand jury to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination. O'Sullivan called this a "white-collar rule of thumb," but said many public officials are reluctant to invoke the Fifth because they believe that doing so implies guilt.
"Experience is everything," she said.
President Donald Trump, who is now under investigation for obstruction of justice, has retained his personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, to guide him through the FBI's probe.
Trump has railed against the investigation since it began, repeatedly describing it as a witch hunt. He denies that any collusion took place between his campaign and Russia.