Federal investigators are looking into money raised and spent by President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee and a political body set up to support his campaign from the outside, and whether foreigners had contributed to them.
The inaugural committee had raised a record $107 million and the outside body, Rebuilding American Now — a political action committee (super-PAC) allowed under US election laws to raise unlimited amounts of money to shore up a campaign from the outside and without coordinating with it — $23 million.
Investigations into their receipts and expenses add to a growing list of probes into Trump’s campaign that have dogged and overshadowed his presidency — from allegations of collusion with Russian meddling in 2016 to paying off women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with him.
Asked about the inauguration committee funding, a white House spokesman told reporters the president had “nothing” to do with it.
Investigators have asked witnesses, according to multiple news reports, if contributions to the inaugural committee and the PAC came from foreigners, primarily from west Asian nations such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, using Americans as straw donors fronting for them, essentially to buy political influence. Foreign nationals are not allowed to contribute to candidates or parties.
Fundraising for both the inaugural committee and the PAC efforts were spearheaded by Tom Barrack, a real estate businessman and long-time friend of President Trump.
His spokesman has denied the fund received any foreign donations. “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity,” Owen Blicksilver, the spokesman, said to The New York Times.
The focus on the inauguration committee was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said investigators were looking at its expenses and whether they were misspent.
This probe took from a tape recording seized by federal prosecutors from the homes and offices of Michael Cohen, a former lawyer and fixer for Trump, who has been sentenced to three years in jail for, among other things, in connection with pay-offs to two women who had claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 22:02 IST
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