On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump’s inaugural committee has joined his campaign, his business, his administration and his family in being under investigation by federal law enforcement agencies.
At issue, the Journal says, is whether donors to the committee sought official favors from the administration or to influence hiring at the outset of Trump’s term. The probe reportedly stems from material seized during the raid on Michael Cohen’s homes and office in New York in April. Cohen, of course, is the former Trump personal attorney who this week was sentenced to three years in prison on a number of federal charges.
There have long been questions about the money contributed to the inaugural committee. Trump’s team raised more than twice as much as the previous record-holder, Barack Obama’s 2009 committee. In total, the committee brought in more than $106 million — despite being more modest in scope than Obama’s.
Of the money that was raised, more than half came from individual donors, according to data compiled by CBNC’s Christina Wilkie and the Center for Responsive Politics. No single entity gave more than casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who ponied up $5 million. Most of the individuals who gave to Trump’s inauguration had given mostly to Republicans in the past.
Among organizations that gave, many hadn’t made political contributions before, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Many of the reported donors, though, haven’t been identified, as Wilkie wrote Friday.
“Take, for example, Frank A. Rodriguez,” she wrote, “supposedly a resident of Singapore who is listed as having given $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural fund. The address listed for Rodriguez in Singapore, however, doesn’t match up with any residences, or offer any ways to follow up.”
What particularly drew attention after the inauguration was how the money had been spent. The committee promised to give unspent money to charity but dragged its heels on doing so. Eventually, it donated $5 million, divvied up among several organizations including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
That meant that the committee had spent $101 million, a staggering sum. Much of that was itemized as being for conferences, conventions and meetings in the group’s IRS filing. Included in that total was $26 million paid to a senior adviser to first lady Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who also runs an events business. Wolkoff, the New York Times reported, was personally paid $1.6 million, money used in part to pay staff who worked for her.
On Friday, ProPublica raised new questions about this spending. According to its reporting, some of the money went to events or meetings held at Trump’s hotel in Washington. In an email to Ivanka Trump, Wolkoff apparently expressed concern that paying $700,000 for four days' use of the hotel ballroom might be excessive.
“Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge,” Wolkoff wrote, according to ProPublica.
Much of the spending, though, remains a black box. As with so many other facets of Trump’s tenure in Washington, investigators are apparently poised to shed some light.