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Report: Federal Prosecutors Investigating Trump Inauguration Spending

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
JOSHUA CAPLAN

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee amid suspicion that a portion of the $107 million it raised was misspent, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal states the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is in the beginning stages of probing whether the committee’s most prominent donors made sizable contributions “in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions.”

The Journal reports:

The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

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.

Federal prosecutors have asked Richard Gates, a former campaign aide who served as the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman, about the fund’s spending and its donors, according to people familiar with the matter.

A lawyer familiar with the matter told the Journal that investigators have not requested the committee turn over any records. “We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists,” the lawyer said.

The White House, nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan have yet to comment on the report.

Reports of the probe come as President Trump is pushing back against allegations that he directed his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, to break the law by making hush-money payments, affirming that he “did nothing wrong.”

On Wednesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to misleading Congress about his work on a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, making false statements about when discussions with Russia about a possible deal concluded. Cohen also pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws by helping orchestrate payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and pornographic actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges to had sexual encounters with Trump before he was president.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and is slated to surrender to authorities on March 6.

In a Fox News interview, President Trump said the campaign finance charges Cohen pleaded guilty to are “not criminal” and were included solely to “embarrass him.”

Earlier, Trump tweeted that Cohen “was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made.” While prosecutors appear to have implicated President Trump in a crime, they have not haven’t directly accused him of one.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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