At Least $50 Million From Trump’s Inauguration Funds Are Missing And Mueller Is Looking For It: Report
President Donald Trump amassed a record $107 million in contributions to his inaugural committee. So where did it all go? No one will say. But Special counsel Robert Mueller is now on the case and is determined to find the missing money, ABC News reports.
Previous presidents had kept donations low in an effort to avoid the appearance of selling presidential access — or favors. Not Mr. Trump. And nearly a year after his inauguration, his administration has not disclosed how much surplus money it still has or provided a final accounting of its finances.
During Trump’s transition period, the organizing committee led by billionaire investor Thomas Barrack doubled the funds raised by any previous U.S. president. The money raised eyebrows among political operatives because there was nothing about the celebration that indicated it would exceed a more traditional price tag, according to Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning consumer rights advocacy group.
For the group’s government affairs lobbyist, Craig Holman, this has raised one key question that remains unanswered on the cusp of Trump’s inaugural anniversary: Where did the extra money go?
“We must decline comment at this time,” Kristin Celauro, a spokeswoman for the inaugural committee’s chairman, Thomas Barrack, said this week in response to a USA TODAY inquiry about the committee’s finances.
Now, according to NBC News, special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating contributions to Donald Trump’s massive inauguration fund from donors with ties to foreign countries, and where the money has gone.
Mueller’s team has talked to witnesses about millions of dollars in contributions from donors to the inaugural committee with links to Russia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, ABC reported, based on information from a source who has been present at recent interviews. Donations from some of those individual donors surpassed $1 million each, ABC said.
One of those questioned was California billionaire real estate investor Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump who was in charge of fundraising for the inaugural committee. Barrack has substantial private equity holdings in the Middle East.
One donor being scrutinized by Mueller’s team is American Andrew Intrater, who is both a business associate and relative of Russian multibillionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who owns the Russian global conglomerate Renova Group. That company was sanctioned in April by the U.S. Treasury Department to punish Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election and other suspected “malign activity.”
Vekselberg, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is an investor in New York investment company Columbus Nova. Renova recently listed Columbus Nova as a subsidiary, and it was identified as such in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Steve Kerrigan, who served as chief of staff for Obama’s first inaugural committee and chairman for his second inauguration, said it’s “shocking” that Trump’s team is not disclosing more information about how they are spending the record amount they collected for relatively modest celebrations. Trump attended three official balls, for instance, compared to Obama’s 10.
“It is alarming that you would potentially have at least $50 million left over and no sense of how it was spent,” he said.
Kerrigan, who is running for Congress from Massachusetts, said if he’s elected, he would draft a bill to create more transparency in inaugural spending.
The report notes that it is illegal for campaigns to accept foreign contributions. There are a lot of dots here, but if the FBI can connect them, this could be a huge deal. Yuge.