For almost two years an important question has gone unanswered: what happened to all that money that was raised for the President’s inauguration? The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York is now officially seeking answers. (emphasis mine)
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 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 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.
The committee raised more than double what former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural fund reported raising in 2009, the previous record.
Federal prosecutors have asked Richard Gates, a former campaign aide who served as the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman, about the fund’s spending and its donors, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Gates has met with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
Mr. Gates, who served as deputy in the inaugural fund, in February pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. involving foreign political consulting work unrelated to the campaign. The case was brought by Mr. Mueller’s office. Mr. Gates agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in ongoing investigations.
The committee was headed by Thomas Barrack Jr., a real-estate developer and longtime friend of Mr. Trump. There is no sign the investigation is targeting Mr. Barrack, and he hasn’t been approached by investigators since he was interviewed by the special counsel’s office last year, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who are probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, asked Mr. Barrack only a handful of questions about the inaugural fund, the person said.
Mr. Mueller has also probed whether any foreign money flowed to the inaugural fund, which is prohibited from accepting foreign funds. In August, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, on a referral from Mr. Mueller, obtained a guilty plea from a Washington 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.
Much more at the link.
I have been thinking my way through a post on Thomas Barrack for the past week, but today’s Wall Street Journal reporting has sort of forced my hand. Not only was Barrack the chair of the President’s inaugural committee, he appears to be a key central bridging node between a number of the Gulf Arab states, like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and useless idiot Jared Kushner. Barrack advises the Emirati Crown Prince, who is himself the mentor of the Saudi Crown Prince. And Barrack is the person who recommended Paul Manafort to the President for his campaign. Barrack is a key node, if not the key node, into and out of the foreign influence campaigns – from Russia to the Emirates to Saudi – and the Trump administration and campaign. Which is why Special Counsel Mueller has expanded his investigation into these other foreign contacts and connections with the President’s 2016 campaign, his transition and inauguration, and his administration. Specifically those from the Middle East.
We are off the looking glass and through the map.