Prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) are looking into the president’s inaugural committee, the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, and Aruna Viswanatha reported Thursday.
Investigators are said to be interested in the inaugural committee’s spending, and into potential corruption involving favors for its donors. The Journal team reports that the criminal probe stems at least in part from material found during the FBI’s raids on Michael Cohen’s residence and office in April.
Even before this, multiple outlets reported earlier this year that special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating potential Russia-tied donations to the inaugural committee. But this news is the first confirmation of a broader probe into the inauguration and its money.
Rick Gates — the former Trump aide who helped run the inaugural committee and struck a plea deal with Mueller in February — has also been cooperating with SDNY prosecutors, the Journal reports.
The news shouldn’t come as a surprise. There have long been many glaring questions about the money behind Trump’s inauguration and where, exactly, it went.
Trump’s inaugural committee raised a truly astonishing $106.7 million, double the previous record set by Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural. But what they did with it isn’t so clear.
In a report for ProPublica and WNYC by Ilya Marritz earlier this year, the chair of George W. Bush’s second inauguration, Greg Jenkins, said he was baffled. “They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” he said. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.”