Trump's inaugural committee under criminal investigation over fund wrongdoing

Trump's inaugural committee under criminal investigation over fund wrongdoing

The Journal's sources say the investigation was prompted in part by materials obtained in the federal probe of Michael Cohen, Trump's legal "fixer" who has since flipped on his former top client.

The investigation opened by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office is examining whether some of the committee's donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal said.

Money in exchange for political favors could violate federal corruption laws.

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

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Billionaire Thomas Barrack Jr. headed the inauguration committee, and has reportedly not been approached by investigators.

The committee for funding the celebration expenses associated with Trump's inauguration to the presidency in January 2017 raised a record amount of money: $107 million, more than twice what his predecessor, Barack Obama, raised in 2008, which was itself a record. The paper, citing people familiar with the inquiry, said it focuses on people from Middle Eastern countries - including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - and whether they "used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds".

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.

"The inauguration's accounting was provided both to the Federal Election Commission and the IRS in compliance with all laws and regulations", it said. "The role that the president had in the inauguration was to raise his hand and take the oath", said Sanders, who accused Democrats of "going to plan - I would say Plan B, but this is more like Plan D or E or F to take this president down".

In the recording, Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to The Journal.

'We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists, ' the lawyer told the newspaper.

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. Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison this week for tax evasion and campaign-finance violations. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy charges relating to his foreign consulting work with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The newspaper reported that federal prosecutors in NY and from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller have questioned witnesses over whether anyone from Middle Eastern countries contributed to the committee.

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