Federal prosecutors investigate $1 million donation to Trump's inaugural committee: report

The hefty sum is being examined by prosecutors in New York who are probing the committee's business dealings

Published May 28, 2019 10:49AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Sean Gallup)
(Getty/Sean Gallup)

Federal prosecutors are investigating a $1 million donation made to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee by real estate mogul Franklin Haney, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The hefty contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his long-shot bid to acquire the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.

Haney still has not closed that deal, but the president's former personal attorney and "fixer" Michael Cohen allegedly provided prosecutors with information about Haney, his son and business associate, Frank Haney Jr. and the nuclear plant project.

The real estate developer briefly enlisted Cohen to help assist his efforts in obtaining money for the Bellefonte project from potential investors, including from the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, the AP reported. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

Haney's contribution to Trump's inaugural committee is being scrutinized by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, who are probing the committee's business dealings. Authorities are investigating whether the $107 million in donations the committee raised was "misspent, used to improperly benefit certain individuals or came from foreign donors in violation of campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign money in U.S. elections," CNN reported last week.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan issued a sweeping subpoena in February, demanding documents, records and communications related to the committee's finances, vendors and donors.

Manhattan prosecutors have already secured testimony from inaugural planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, an associate of first lady Melania Trump, whose party planning firm received $25.8 million from the committee as a vendor. Wolkoff received a grand jury subpoena in October 2018 in connection with the investigation.

Sam Patten, a GOP political operative, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to funneling $50,000 to the committee through a straw donor in exchange for inauguration tickets for his Ukrainian clients. Patten was sentenced to three years of probation without jail time last month after a federal judge lauded him for his "substantial assistance" in numerous ongoing federal investigations that grew out of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation in New York is not the only one involving the Inaugural Committee. Prosecutors in New Jersey and Washington have also opened their own inquiries and issued subpoenas for records of any payments made by donors to contractors and vendors who worked for the committee. They are reportedly looking into whether the committee violated the rules that govern nonprofits.

The inaugural committee has denied any wrongdoing.

By Shira Tarlo

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