Nearly two months after it was reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were looking into whether President Donald Trump‘s 2017 Inauguration Committee misspent some of the $107 million raised from contributors, the Inauguration Committee has been slapped with a subpoena.
It was not made clear which documents are being sought, but the general context of the inquiry has already been made clear.
As Law&Crime previously noted, prosecutors have shown interest in investigating whether wealthy donors gave money in exchange for access into and influence within the Trump administration. That news came out of the the Southern District of New York’s investigation of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
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.
Indeed, Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher pointed out at the time that bribery or attempted bribery of public officials is a federal crime. The Journal report noted that there had not been, at that time, any subpoena of records.
It’s worth noting that Rick Gates, who testified against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort at the latter’s August trial on bank fraud and tax evasion was the inaugural committee’s deputy chair–and therefore privy to keen insight on millions spent in service of Trump’s hastily put-together celebrations.
Gates continues to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller in several ongoing investigations.
Speaking of Mueller, he also has shown interest in inauguration spending. Recall that Mueller referred the Sam Patten Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) at the end of Aug. 2018.
Patten was also an associate of Manafort and Gates in the lobbying world, and had ties to Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller recently accused Manafort of lying, in part, about his communications with Kilimnik. Kilimnik is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence.
It’s been alleged that Patten sought tickets to Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States “on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch” and acted as a “straw purchaser” to do so. Prosecutors say Ukrainian money was secretly funneled to the inauguration committee “through a Cypriot bank account.”
It had already been reported as far back as April that Mueller was investigating whether “wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration.” Sources said at the time claimed that Mueller had a theory that “straw donors” (particularly Americans) acted as “a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.”
Patten is cooperating.
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report. [Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]