Trump's DOJ opens investigation into Trump campaign donation

An investigation is under way as to the potential foreign origins of a $100,000 to a Trump reelection committee

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 13, 2019 12:19PM (EDT)

William Barr (Getty/AP/Salon)
William Barr (Getty/AP/Salon)

A $100,000 donation to a political fundraising committee dedicated to reelecting President Donald Trump is under scrutiny due to suspicions that it may have come from a foreign donor — and, as such, would have violated federal law.

The donation under scrutiny came from the co-owner of a Hawaii-based investment company known as LNS Capital, according to The Wall Street Journal. The businessman in question, Larry Davis, gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory committee, which is dedicated to reelecting Trump in the 2020 election. While there is nothing remarkable about this in its own right, the potential illegality exists in the fact that transfers adding up to $1.5 million were made to LNS Capital seven months earlier, and all of them came from the controversial Malaysian businessman Jho Low. If Low's money was used to help fund Trump's campaign, that would violate a federal law banning foreign individuals or companies from donating to American politicians, whether directly or indirectly.

Once Davis donated the money, more than $60,000 was given to the Republican National Committee while an additional $5,400 was given to Trump's reelection campaign, with the rest being distributed to various state Republican Party organizations and related political campaigns.

In addition to the controversy stemming from Low's foreign background, which automatically would make the donation illegal, the Malaysian businessman has also faced a number of other criminal controversies. In 2018 he was indicted on three counts of conspiring to violate federal antibribery laws and launder money. In addition, he faces charges in Malaysia for allegedly participating in a plot to steal billions of dollars from a Malaysian state investment fund known as 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

As the Journal reported:

In an email response to questions, Mr. Low denied any knowledge of Mr. Davis or the donation. In a follow-up email three minutes later, he asked The Wall Street Journal to ignore his first message, saying it was meant for his lawyers.

Mr. Davis didn’t respond to requests for comment.

If this proves to be true, it would have shadows of a scandal that threatened to envelope President Bill Clinton's administration during the 1996 presidential campaign, when Clinton was up for reelection. As The Washington Post reported at the time:

A Justice Department investigation into improper political fund-raising activities has uncovered evidence that representatives of the People's Republic of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 presidential campaign, officials familiar with the inquiry said.

Sensitive intelligence information shows that the Chinese Embassy on Connecticut Avenue NW here was used for planning contributions to the DNC, the sources said. Some information was obtained through electronic eavesdropping conducted by federal agencies.

The information gives the Justice Department inquiry what is known as a foreign counterintelligence component, elevating the seriousness of the fund-raising controversy, according to some officials.

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.

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2020 Presidential Election All Salon Donald Trump Jho Low Larry Davis News & Politics