Federal prosecutors are investigating President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee for possible misspending of the more than $100 million in donations raised for the inauguration, sources told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The Journal reported that prosecutors in the investigation, which is being handled by by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, are looking into whether the committee accepted donations from individuals hoping to gain influence and access into the Trump administration.
According to CNN, which also confirmed the report, giving money in hopes of political favors is illegal, just as misuse of money is.
Such misspending from the committee, which was registered as a nonprofit, could constitute a violation of federal corruption laws, according to The Huffington Post, and if it is true, would make it the latest probe into whether members of Trump’s inner circle inappropriately spent funds in association with his campaign.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump's inaugural committee is under criminal investigation for misspending funds. https://t.co/XAG298iYw9
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) December 13, 2018
In a statement, Trump’s inaugural committee said the ceremony was “in full compliance with all applicable laws.”
“The (committee) is not aware of any pending investigations and has not been contacted by any prosecutors. We simply have no evidence the investigation exists,” the statement said.
“The (committee’s) finances were fully audited internally and independently and are fully accounted,” the statement continued. “Moreover, the inauguration’s accounting was provided both to the Federal Election Commission and the IRS in compliance with all laws and regulations. These were funds raised from private individuals and were then spent in accordance with the law and the expectations of the donors. The names of donors were provided to the FEC and have been public for nearly two years and those donors were vetted in accordance with the law and no improprieties have been found regarding the vetting of those donors.”
According to The Journal, the investigation arose from materials that were seized by federal prosecutors in when former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home was raided in April. Michael Cohen was just sentenced to three years in prison for violating campaign finance laws with the hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump, as well as for tax evasion and lying to Congress.
A source who spoke with The Journal said FBI officials obtained a recorded conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, during the raid. Wolkoff had expressed concerns regarding the committee’s spending in the conversation.
CNN previously reported that the committee had received a record-setting $107 million in donations, primarily from donors who gave $1 million or more.
When asked about the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Thursday, “That doesn't have anything to do with the President or the first lady. The biggest thing the President did, his engagement in the inauguration, was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office. The President was focused on the transition at that time and not on any of the planning for the inauguration.”