‘The Gift That Keeps on Giving’: Cohen Raid Sparks Criminal Probe of Trump Inauguration Committee

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are reportedly looking into whether President Donald Trump‘s 2017 Inauguration Committee misspent some of the $107 million raised from contributors. One aspect of this investigation is also said to concerns allegations that certain well-heeled donors gave money in exchange for access into and influence within the nascent Trump administration.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is basing their investigation on materials seized during April raids on Trump’s former longtime lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen.

The Journal‘s Thursday evening report notes:

In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.

It’s presently unclear why or when that phone call was recorded but is now in the possession of SDNY investigators, according to an anonymous source cited by the Journal.

Bribery or attempted bribery of public officials is a federal crime. The improper diversion of funds from a non-profit–which is the corporate form chosen by the inaugural committee members–would also likely violate federal law.

According to an attorney “close to the matter” who was contacted by the Journal, the inaugural committee itself hasn’t been asked to supply records or otherwise been approached by prosecutors as of yet.

“We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists,” the unnamed attorney said.

At least one of the inaugural committee’s leadership staff is likely to ring familiar.

Rick Gates, who testified against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort at the latter’s August trial on bank fraud and tax evasion was the inaugural committee’s deputy chair–and therefore privy to keen insight on millions spent in service of Trump’s hastily put-together celebrations.

Federal prosecutors have reportedly spoken with Gates about the committee’s spending and donors.

[image via screengrab/NBC]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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