U.S. Attorney in Manhattan launches criminal probe of Trump inaugural committee

One at a time please! Trump inauguration committee reportedly under criminal investigation

Reuters Jim Bourg

The Wall Street Journal reports: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said".

Federal investigators are looking at whether people from foreign countries funnelled potentially illegal donations to the inauguration fund to buy "influence over American policy". Such quid pro quo arrangements would violate federal corruption laws.

The reported investigation arose in part from documents that federal prosecutors seized in April when it raided the home of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

The newspapers reported that an Federal Bureau of Investigation search of Cohen's office and home last spring uncovered a recorded conversation between the lawyer and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump who ran companies that were paid $26 million by the inaugural committee.

One key name is tied to both bodies: Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire and Trump friend who raised money for the inaugural committee and for the super PAC. "We simply have no evidence the investigation exists".

The report comes from ProPublica who noted that there were concerns the Trump Organization was overcharging for housing events honoring the Donald Trump and the over-payments may actually be a violation of the law.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan US attorney's office declined to comment.

"The inaugural committee hasn't been asked for records or been contacted by prosecutors".

Another subject of the probe will be possible foreign donations to the fund, which would also be violations of federal law.

First, Wall Street Journal reporting puts Trump in the room where the plot to pay hush money was hatched.

Other major inauguration donors included casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5m, and investment firm founder Charles Schwab and mining investor Christopher Cline, who gave $1m each, according to FEC filings.

"Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity", said Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Barrack.

"All of these issues regarding campaign finance have got to be seen along with this alleged investigation into misuse of inauguration funds", said Hanna. Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison, in part for organizing payments to cover up sex scandals that could have threatened Trump's chances of winning the White House. Among other issues, they asked about a Mediterranean cruise that Barrack and Manafort took after Manafort was sacked in August 2016 from the Trump campaign because of a scandal over his previous work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Rick Gates, who testified against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort at the latter's August trial on bank fraud and tax evasion was the inaugural committee's deputy chair-and therefore privy to keen insight on millions spent in service of Trump's hastily put-together celebrations.

In August, the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, on a referral from Mueller, obtained a guilty plea from a DC consultant who admitted he used a United States citizen to serve as a "straw purchaser" so that a "prominent Ukraine oligarch" could attend the inauguration.

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