Trump’s inaugural committee is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York over whether donors handed over cash in exchange for access to government officials and into whether funds were misallocated, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Documents seized during raids of former Trump attorney and current felon Michael Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room in April 2018 led to the investigation, the newspaper reported, which is focusing on whether the record $107 million the committee raised was given “in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions.”
Specifically, the report stated that federal agents seized the recording of a conversation that Cohen made between himself and former Melania Trump adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. In the recording, Wolkoff purportedly “expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money,” the Journal cited one person as saying.
Investigators interviewed former Trump campaign aide and inaugural committee deputy chair Rick Gates in connection with the probe, asking him about “the fund’s spending and its donors.” Gates, the one-time protege to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort who pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and testified against Manafort, went to work for Barrack after the inauguration.
Billionaire Thomas Barrack Jr. headed the inauguration committee, and has reportedly not been approached by investigators.
Wolkoff’s company – WIS media partners – was the inauguration’s largest vendor, and was paid $25.8 million after being formed 45 days before the inauguration began.
Tax filings reviewed by the Journal show that the inauguration claimed that $77 million was spent on conferences, $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, and $4.5 million on payroll.
It wasn’t immediately clear which payments specifically are subject to the probe.
Sam Patten, a political consultant who had done work in Ukraine, pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent in August for wiring $50,000 to the inauguration committee in order to secure a spot at the inauguration for the same Ukrainian politician who steered payments to Manafort.