President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee is being investigated by federal prosecutors in NY over allegations that it misspent funds or accepted donations in exchange for access to his administration, according to a media report.
The Journal notes that Mueller has also probed "whether any foreign money flowed to the inaugural fund, which is prohibited from accepting foreign funds", and referred a Washington consultant to the Washington U.S. attorney's office after he admitted to using a U.S. citizen as a "straw purchaser" on behalf of a Ukraine oligarch so he could attend the inauguration. Such quid pro quo arrangements would violate federal corruption laws.
The investigation partly stems from material seized in the Federal probe involving former Trump attorney Michael Cohen - namely a conversation that was recorded between Cohen and a former adviser to Melania Trump. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.
The inquiry, which the newspaper said is in its early stages, is also focused on whether the inauguration committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised to stage events celebrating Trump's inauguration. "We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists", the lawyer said.
USA law prohibits foreign contributions to inaugural funds and super PACs and the investigation is looking into whether money from the Gulf was funnelled through American intermediaries in the USA to disguise its origins. It said the donors were vetted and no improprieties were found. "The last thing a president-elect has time for is inaugural fund-raising", he said.
Gates has met with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office and the special counsel's office.
Billionaire Thomas Barrack Jr. headed the inauguration committee, and has reportedly not been approached by investigators.
The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for $61 million of the $103 million it spent but hasn't coughed up any details on those expenses, according to tax filings.
Tom Barrack, a real estate developer who ran the inaugural committee, has not yet spoken with investigators since an interview he had with the special counsel previous year, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Richard Gates, who served as the committee's deputy chair, pleaded guilty in February for conspiracy charges connected to foreign political consulting work unrelated to the Trump campaign. The newspaper reported that federal prosecutors in NY and from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller have questioned witnesses over whether anyone from Middle Eastern countries contributed to the committee.