•  

Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

June 16, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Trump’s inaugural committee subpoenaed for documents

Amid a series of investigations of President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, New York federal prosecutors subpoenaed the committee Feb. 4 for a release of numerous internal documents.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office opened a criminal investigation of Trump’s inaugural committee in December. The office was investigating how the committee spent its money, who funded it and if the funders received any improper compensation in return. The investigation of the inaugural committee unofficially started in April, when Robert Mueller and the special counsel began questioning whether Russian oligarchs had illegally funneled money to Trump’s campaign and inaugural ceremony.

The subpoena seeks information about all documents related to the committee’s donors and guests, any benefits handed out, including tickets and photo opportunities with Trump, federal disclosure filings, vendors, contracts and more. In the subpoena investigators also noted that they want to find out if any foreigners illegally donated to the committee and if staff members were aware of the legal requirements for donations.

As for the donors who the prosecutors specifically inquired about, only Imaad Zuberi and his investment firm, Avenue Ventures LLC were mentioned. Although the subpoena does ask for documents regarding him and his company, it gives no explanation as to why his donation may be of special interest. Federal Election Commission records show that Avenue Ventures donated $900,000 to the inaugural fund.

The federal prosecutors’ subpoena involves possible financial abuses related to the more than $100 million raised for Trump’s inauguration. The prosecutor listed on the subpoena is Tom McKay, who is a member of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s public-corruption office. In the past, he also served as a prosecutor on the case against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former private attorney.

The subpoena is also screening the committee for a slew of potential crimes, including conspiracy against the U.S., false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and disclosure violations. The prosecutors also said they were interested in searching for election fraud. While the federal prosecutors do not necessarily suspect the committee of these crimes, they did list them on the subpoena as a justification for demanding the documents, the prosecutors told The New York Times.

According to CNN, a spokesperson from the committee said it is planning to fully cooperate with the subpoena and is still reviewing the inquiry.

“We just received a subpoena for documents,” the spokesperson said. “While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, dismissed the subpoena at a press conference Feb. 5. When questioned about the subpoena being a part of an array of criminal inquiries of the Trump administration, Sanders said she thought the subpoena was the result of the long-term resentment and hysteria following Trump’s election.

“Actually, I think the common thread is hysteria over the fact that this president became president,” Sanders said. “The common thread is that there is so much hatred out there that they will look for anything to try to create and tie problems to this president.”

Meredith Burke can be reached at mburke@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meredithsburke