President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee has come under new criminal investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.
Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised and whether some donors were granted access to government officials in exchange for their cash. Both donating in exchange for political favors and using funds for anything other than the inauguration could violate federal laws.
The wife of right-wing casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who donated over $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, was awarded Trump’s first ever Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Billionaire Thomas Barrack Jr, a longtime friend of Trump, headed the inauguration committee, which raised more than double what former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural committee did.
The Journal reports that the criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is in its early stages. The inaugural committee has not yet be asked for documentation or been contacted by federal prosecutors. The investigation into the inaugural committee partly stemmed from materials seized in a probe into the dealings of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Journal reported. Federal investigators seized documents during raids of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room in April 2018. Cohen, who worked for years at the Trump Organization, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations he said he made when he paid two women at Trump's direction to cover up alleged affairs with the president.
Federal agents reportedly obtained a recorded conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former Vogue staffer who went on to serve as an adviser to Melania Trump. who worked on the inaugural events. Wolkoff purportedly “expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money,” the Journal cited one person as saying. She left the administration in February after reports her firm received $26 million in payments to help plan the inauguration.