Another threat to Trump: Prosecutors want inaugural committee's financial records

Federal prosecutors in New York issue subpoena to Trump's inaugural committee in probe of possible corruption

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 5, 2019 11:40AM (EST)

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States as Melania Trump (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States as Melania Trump (AP/Andrew Harnik)

President Trump faces a new legal threat from outside special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. This time, it's U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York, who have issued a  subpoena to Trump's inaugural committee in a corruption investigation.

The Southern District's public corruption sector of the Southern District has demanded information about individuals who donated to the committee for the Trump's 2017 inaugural ceremonies, according to ABC News. Trump's inaugural fund raised $107 million, the most of any in history, and critics have suggested that individuals who contributed to the fund may have received special access to the president or other potentially illegal benefits. In addition, according to sources close to the investigation, prosecutors want to learn more about various people who attended inaugural events, to see how or whether top donors were rewarded.

Among the people interviewed so far in the Southern District's investigation are Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen -- who recently pleaded guilty to unrelated campaign finance violations -- and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

The ABC News story went into detail about the only person referenced by name in the legal documents obtained by the news organization:

The subpoena also seeks information about the inaugural committee and its dealings with a California-based money manager named Imaad Zuberi and his company, Avenue Ventures. The subpoena does not specify the reasons why investigators are seeking documents relating to Zuberi, nor does it necessarily mean Zuberi is a subject of any investigation. He is the only person referenced by name in the document.

Zuberi has been a prolific political donor, largely to Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. After the election, Avenue Ventures donated $900,000 to Trump's inaugural committee, according to FEC records.

"We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry," a spokesperson for Trump's inaugural committee told ABC News.

Trump's legal predicament with the Southern District presents a distinct problem for the president. While in theory he has the authority to fire Mueller -- who works for the Justice Department and therefore the executive branch -- he has no clear way to shut down a U.S. attorney's investigation.

"I think he has constitutional defenses to the investigation being conducted by Mueller," Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told "This Week" in August. "But there are no constitutional defenses to what the Southern District is investigating. So, I think the Southern District is the greatest threat."

Former federal prosecutor and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed a similar thought, telling ABC News this week, "This is why I've been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa