The White House insisted Friday that a probe into the Donald Trump’s inaugural committee has ‘nothing’ to do with the sitting president as it attempts to distance itself from allegations of inappropriate conduct – saying he just turned up for it.
Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised.
Investigators are also exploring charges that top donors gave money in exchange for access to and influence within the Trump administration.
The inquiry is particularly focusing on Middle Eastern donors like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
According to The New York Times, investigators are trying to determine whether those nations used straw donors to disguise their donations to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and the pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, in hopes of buying influence.
Foreign nations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaigns, PACs and inaugural funds by law.
Federal prosecutors are also examining whether Trump’s inaugural committee misspent some of the $107million it raised.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley contended on Friday that the pay-for-play allegations have ‘nothing’ to do with President Trump.
The White House is insisting that a probe into the Donald Trump’s inaugural committee has ‘nothing’ to do with the sitting president as it attempted to distance itself from allegations of inappropriate conduct
Investigators are also exploring charges that top donors gave money in exchange for access to and influence within the Trump administration
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley contended on Friday that the pay-for-play allegations have ‘nothing’ to do with President Trump
Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether Trump ‘s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised
‘As you guys know, at the time of the inauguration, the president was trying to establish a government and right all the wrongs of the Obama administration. He did both of those things, quite frankly, at historic levels,’ Gidley told reporters.
‘But the President of the United States has one job at the inauguration. It’s to show up, to thank everyone for the service to get him elected, and then also dance with the first lady. He did all of those things. This charge has nothing to do with the president of the United States and it has nothing to do with this administration.’
The Wall Street Journal first revealed the existence of the investigation on Thursday evening, just in time for the evening news.
‘That doesn’t have anything to do with the president or the first lady,’ White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Thursday night. ‘The biggest thing the president did in his engagement for the inauguration was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office.’
Sanders said, ‘The president was focused on the transition during that time and not on any of the planning.’
Money in exchange for political favors could violate federal corruption laws. There could also be a violation of federal law if funds were diverted from the inaugural committee, which was registered as a nonprofit.
Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether President Donald Trump ‘s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised
The investigation came partly out of materials seized in the federal probe of Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s business dealings, the Journal reported.
In April raids of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, federal agents obtained a recorded conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events.
Wolkoff, in their conversation, expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending its money.
A former Vogue staffer who is one of the first lady’s longtime friends, Wolkoff left the administration in February after reports her firm, WIS Media Partners, received $26 million in payments to help plan the inauguration.
She was an unpaid adviser to the first lady.
It’s unknown when the conversation between Wolkoff and Cohen took place or why it was recorded.
According to the committee’s tax filings, Wolkoff’s WIS Media Partners was formed 45 days before the inauguration and got paid the most of any vendor for its work.
Trump’s inaugural committee raised more than double what former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural committee did.
Supporters said the president’s inauguration was so costly because no one expected him to win so all the planning was done at the last minute.
Trump’s funds came largely from wealthy donors and corporations who gave $1 million or more – including casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, AT&T Inc. and Boeing Co., according to Federal Election Commission filings examined by the Journal.
A lawyer close to the matter told the Journal that the inaugural committee has not been contacted by prosecutors.
‘We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists,’ the lawyer told the newspaper.
Prosecutors have asked Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who served as the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman, about the committee’s spending and its donors.
Gates has met with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the special counsel’s office. The one-time deputy to Paul Manafort has plead guilty to financial crimes he says he committed with his former business partner before they worked for Trump.
His sentencing has been delayed by the special counsel’s office as he continues to provide assistance to the federal government.
Prosecutors were acting off a tip from a conversation found on a recording during a raid of Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The call was between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events
Supporters said the president’s inauguration was so costly because no one expected him to win so all the planning was done at the last minute
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has examined whether any foreign money came into the inaugural fund, which is prohibited from accepting foreign contributions.
In August, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, on a referral from Mueller, obtained a guilty plea from a D.C. consultant who admitted he used a U.S. citizen to serve as a ‘straw purchaser’ so that a ‘prominent Ukraine oligarch’ could attend the inauguration.
The names were never disclosed, the paper noted.
There have been other reports that prosecutors were interested in individuals with Russian ties attending Trump’s inauguration.
The Washington Post reported in January that the FBI expressed concerns about several Russians connected to the Kremlin who were in Washington, D.C., that weekend, and ABC News reported in June that Mueller was looking into how several Russian oligarchs were given access to invitation-only parties.
Since pleading guilty to eight counts in August, Cohen has been cooperating with prosecutors in New York and the special counsel’s office. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to three years in prison.