A company owned by Keith Schiller, President Donald Trump's former longtime bodyguard, has received $225,000 from the Republican National Committee for security consulting since he left his job as White House director of Oval Office operations in September 2017, according to interviews and newly released campaign filings.
Schiller was originally hired by the RNC to help select a site for the 2020 convention. But once the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, was announced in July, Schiller's firm was kept on to "work on other security needs for the committee," a party official told CNBC, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official declined to go into detail about what the committee's security needs might be but confirmed that the work is ongoing.
The RNC's characterization of Schiller is different from how the committee described his work a year ago, when CNBC first inquired about it.
In February 2018, an RNC official told CNBC that the committee had hired Schiller's firm, KS Global Group, for a very specific purpose: "To provide security consultation for the RNC 2020 convention site selection process, which is currently underway."
The official also took pains to emphasize that Schiller's $15,000 a month fee was not coming out of the same funds the party was using to help elect Republicans to office in the 2018 midterms. Instead, the official said, Schiller's firm was being paid out of a special fund set aside for convention expenses.
It is unclear whether Schiller has any other clients besides the RNC, and if so, what type of work he does for them. Likewise, details about KS Global Group are not readily available.
According to state records, KS Global Group was created in 2015 by an anonymous Delaware corporate agent, and it does not appear to have a website or any publicly available contact information. As of 2017, the firm was registered at a virtual office address in Boca Raton, Florida, where Schiller lives. A filing with the Florida secretary of State's office lists Schiller as the principal of the company.
Attempts to reach Schiller were unsuccessful. His White House email account is no longer in service and a listed phone number could not be located.
But the unique position that Schiller occupies in Trump's orbit could be seen in the RNC's careful effort last year to compartmentalize Schiller's relationship to the committee, even as it hired him just days after he left the White House, and paid him nearly a quarter of a million dollars in consulting fees over 15 months.
According to RNC records, Schiller's contract is all that remains of three unusual expenses the committee abruptly began paying in the fall of 2017, during a time in which it sought to help the Trump campaign defray the costs of the president's legal bills in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Prior to joining the White House, Schiller had been paid by the Trump campaign.
Schiller is one of several former White House aides who left their government jobs and were quickly hired by Trump-allied political groups. In March 2018, Trump's personal aide Johnny McEntee was fired from the White House for online gaming. Trump's reelection campaign announced that it had hired McEntee as a senior adviser the very next day.
McEntee and Schiller sat together in a side room off the Oval Office, closer to the president than anyone else in the West Wing. But Schiller's place in Trump's orbit is unique. No employee has been as close to Trump personally as Schiller was during the 15 years he spent working for the president and his companies.
As former White House aide Cliff Sims writes in "Team of Vipers," his recently released memoir, "Keith Schiller was the most important person on Trump's staff. His official title was director of Oval Office operations, but he may have been more accurately described as First Friend."
The White House declined to comment on whether Trump still talks to his longtime bodyguard, or how often. But the president is known to spend hours in the White House residence calling friends and associates, often seeking their opinions on political and policy matters.
In late summer 2017, after eight months at the White House with Trump, Schiller was ready to move to Florida, make more money and get outside the Beltway, according to former White House aides. Inside the West Wing, Schiller also reportedly chafed under the newly imposed, top-down leadership style of then-chief of staff Gen. John Kelly.
At the same time, on Capitol Hill, the Republican National Committee was coming under pressure from Trump allies who wanted it to use its specially designated legal fund to help pay personal attorney fees for the president and his eldest son, Donald Jr., who were caught up in the early stages of the special counsel's Russia probe.
As former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo told CNN at the time, "I think it's a responsibility of everyone in the Republican Party to take care of the president and his family first. They didn't sign up for this bogus investigation and it's our responsibility to protect him as much as we can."
The RNC agreed to tap the fund. In August and September 2017, it spent more than $427,000 on lawyers for both men. But an uproar ensued when the RNC later reported the payments on its mandatory monthly campaign filings.
Even within the RNC, many staffers reportedly believed that the legal fund, originally created to pay for things like vote recounts, was never intended to pay anyone's personal legal bills related to a criminal proceeding.
The last legal bill the committee paid for the Trumps was on Sept. 18, 2017, for Don Jr. Yet within days, the RNC quietly started paying three other Trump-related expenses, according to committee filings with the Federal Election Commission.
The first was a salary for John Pence, nephew of Vice President Mike Pence, who was earning around $12,000 a month from Trump's re-election campaign.
Next came $37,500 a month in rent payable to the Trump Organization for office space in Trump Tower, which was used by the president's re-election campaign.
Schiller officially left his job at the White House on Sept. 20. But unlike McEntee, he did not immediately return to the Trump campaign, where his most recent job outside of government had been. Instead, he landed at the RNC.
On October 4, 2017, one week after the Trump Tower rent payments started, the RNC cut its first check for $15,000 to Schiller's KS Global Group for what it called "security services."
The expense was disclosed by the committee on its next campaign filing in October, as required by law. But it went unnoticed by reporters for another three months.
One month after he was retained by the RNC, Schiller sat for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee, which had launched its own investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
There, on November 7, 2017, Schiller reportedly denied a salacious allegation that Trump interacted with prostitutes during a 2013 trip to Moscow, on which Schiller had accompanied him.
At the time of Schiller's testimony, records show that KS Global Group had already collected $30,000 in fees from the RNC. Schiller had also moved to Boca Raton, Florida, full time, according to Florida state corporation filings. One week before he testified on Capitol Hill, Schiller had registered KS Global Group in Florida, and listed his home address as an apartment in Boca Raton.
The RNC wasn't the only pro-Trump group helping Schiller to make ends meet, however. Also not yet reported at the time was the fact that Schiller's lawyers were being paid, at least in part, by the Trump campaign. Between January and April 2018, the campaign paid more than $94,500 to Schiller's attorney's law firm, according to campaign finance reports.
While the role of the RNC and the Trump campaign in Schiller's finances may not have been known in late 2017, Schiller's own involvement in several key events of interest to the special counsel, including Trump's 2013 trip to Russia and former FBI Director James Comey's 2017 firing, were already widely known.
As for the other two expenses, Pence's salary and the Trump Tower rent, which had been explicitly taken over from the campaign, they were both stopped within weeks of CNBC's first identifying them and questioning the committee about them in February. By mid-March 2018, the Trump campaign was back to paying its own rent and paying Pence's salary.
Of the three expenses the committee had begun paying during those last two weeks of September 2017, only Schiller remained on the books.
But now that the original task of selecting a convention site is complete, and Schiller is still on the payroll, the issue of what Trump's former bodyguard is being paid to do is not clear. When CNBC pressed the RNC official for details this week, the official would say only that Schiller was "working on other security needs for the committee."
Along with the questions about what Schiller is doing for the RNC right now, the issue of how the RNC is paying him is also more muddied now that the site search is over. CNBC asked the RNC on Monday whether Schiller is still being paid with convention funds, and the official did not respond.
If Schiller's current arrangement with the RNC continues as is through the rest of Trump's term, he could ultimately take home $585,000.