2019-05-20 17:03:391 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Seal of the 58th United States Presidential Inauguration (Image source: Public domain)
Donald Trump may have found a way to, temporarily at least, avoid the investigations being thrown at him via the House, but he hasn't been so successful with the investigations via New York. An investigation into his inauguration committee's finances has proceeded to the next step with federal prosecutors in New York going over the tens of thousands of documents they have collected.
This investigation was launched, at least in part, because of a recording obtained by prosecutors when the FBI raided Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen's home and office. Known for recording his telephone conversations, he recorded himself and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, an inaugural planner whose firm, WIS Media, was paid $25.8 million for producing the event.
She mentioned in the conversation about his concern with the way the inaugural committee was spending money. She was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan last fall and then met with prosecutors.
The investigation ramped up in February after the U.S. attorney's office with the Southern District of New York subpoenaed the committee, led by Tom Barrack, an old friend of the president's. The subpoena asked for documents and communications that were related to any "benefits" the donors were offered. This included "tickets, photo opportunities, and/or small group receptions."
The committee was also asked to turn over information that concerned donations made directly to vendors and any communications that discussed that. Also being sought were records that related to nearly every donor or donation, committee event attendees, paperwork that related to donation legal requirements, and donations that may have been made by foreign nationals.
A record amount of money was raised for the inauguration that saw money lavishly spent, including $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
The subpoena named only one person, Imaad Zuberi, as well as Avenue Ventures LLC, his investment firm. The interest in him is not known, but he was a longtime donor to Democrats who suddenly began donating a lot of money to Republicans after the election, including $900,000 to the inaugural fund from his company, according to Federal Election Commission records.
He attended two events that set him up to be close to Trump, and he also met up with Cohen. The discussed a potential real estate project in Manhattan, but it never came to be.
His spokesman said that in three months since the subpoena was sent, he has not heard from federal prosecutors. Aside from this probe, he is also being separately investigated by Los Angeles federal prosecutors for tax matters.
Over the course of several weeks, the President's inaugural committee turned in the documents that were being requested. The last set of documents were received within the last month.
It's not known who prosecutors have spoken with, other than Wolkoff. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort's right-hand man, was also the deputy chairman of the inaugural committee. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and lying to investigators with relation to the special counsel investigation. Washington prosecutors have said he is continuing to cooperate, and he has not yet been sentenced.
New Jersey and Washington D.C. attorneys general are also investigating the inaugural committee and have subpoenaed for records. They are looking to see if it violated any laws and how it spent funds with relation to its status as a nonprofit.
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