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.
The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.
Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.
The investigation represents another potential legal threat to people who are or were in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Their business dealings and activities during and since the campaign have led to a number of indictments and guilty pleas. Many of the president’s biggest campaign backers were involved in the inaugural fund.
The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.
In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.
The Wall Street Journal couldn’t determine when the conversation between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place, or why it was recorded. The recording is now in the hands of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said.
The inaugural committee hasn’t been asked for records or been contacted by prosecutors, according to a lawyer close to the matter, who said: “We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists.”
The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for $61 million of the $103 million it spent, and it hasn’t provided details on those expenses, according to tax filings. As a nonprofit organization, the fund is only required to make public its top five vendors.
This is just part of the gold mine Cohen uncovered for prosecutors, and we know now that the investigation is moving towards Trump's pay-to-play arrangements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel
as well as Russia, and let's remember Cohen was not just Trump's lawyer at the time, he was Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC.
Eliott Broidy, Trump's top fundraiser and RNC Finance Chairman, was recently tagged with a massive pay-to-play campaign finance scandal from Malaysia
too. All of this goes back to the inauguration fund, which was a slush fund free-for-all and all kinds of foreign actors lined Trump's pockets.
Now in the last two weeks, we know that the feds are closing in on all three scams, the Malaysia kickback at Justice, the inauguration fund mess, and the Seychelles meeting brokered by Erik Prince and the UAE. Any of the three could send Trump to prison. He's guilty of all three
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.