SDNY Sends Sweeping Subpoena to Trump’s Inauguration Over Shady DonationsPhoto by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Politics Features Russia Investigation
A little less than two months ago, three stories emerged that seemed to preview the direction the Mueller and SDNY investigations into Trump were headed. The Wall Street Journal reported that Manhattan prosecutors were investigating whether Trump’s inauguration “misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations,” The Daily Beast revealed that Mueller was going to pivot his focus to the Middle East (and that GOP operative Sam Patten’s guilty plea to the “rarer-than-rare charge of causing foreign money to be paid to the 2016-17 Presidential Inaugural Committee” is instructive of what’s to come), and the New York Times disclosed that “federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy.”
Yesterday, this escalated from reports of investigations to tangible legal work for Trump’s cadre of lawyers. Per The Washington Post:
Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by President Trump’s inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation into activities related to the nonprofit organization.
A wide-ranging subpoena served on the inaugural committee Monday seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.
The potential crimes that SDNY is investigating with this subpoena should sound familiar to anyone who has read Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen’s indictments: conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering.
Here’s the problem Trump has: only U.S. citizens and legal residents can donate to presidential inaugurations, and Trump clearly has business interests all around the world. That is the subtext of the Jamal Khashoggi saga with Saudi Arabia, this whole Russia mess, and Jared Kushner’s de facto positions of Secretary of State and Chief of Staff—despite having absolutely no idea what the hell he’s doing. Where the money goes, Trump goes, and one look at his business history proves that it’s taken him all over the world. Even a penny from a Saudi prince residing in Riyadh would be too much according to the law, and do you really trust Trump not to turn his presidential inauguration into the equivalent of a wedding for the mob boss’s daughter, where everyone must bring a gift and pay their respects to the Don?
In 2015, Trump paid what was at the time, the largest fine ever to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the Treasury over Trump Taj Mahal’s long standing anti-money laundering violations (one of the great mysteries of history is how that fact never made it into mainstream media or the Hillary campaign’s talking points in 2016). Given what we have learned from Mueller and SDNY’s charging documents, it’s not a stretch to assert that Trump presided over a vast money laundering operation, and you would have to be pretty gullible to believe that he would give up this giant cash grab the moment he became the most powerful man in the world—especially in light of the comprehensive NYT investigation proving that he and his father participated in a decades-long tax fraud scheme that stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States government. This is all exactly what it looks like.
Marcy Wheeler, an essential read for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the Mueller investigation (and who said she gave information to the special counsel, and after other public information came to light, she realized what she gave to Mueller “directly” implicates Trump), noted that one of Michael Cohen’s lawyers—a former SDNY prosecutor—left Cohen’s team just before this subpoena was issued.
This subpoena on the inaugural committee coming just after former SDNY prosecutor Guy Petrillo got the hell off Michael Cohen’s defense team is interesting timing.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) February 5, 2019
Cohen has already been sentenced to three years in prison, and if I were a betting man (and I am), I would bet a lot of money on him spending more than three years in prison. Despite the repeated lies out of Trumpworld, this investigation is nowhere close to being finished. Mueller’s indictment of longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone referenced the indictment of twelve Russian military intelligence officers—strongly suggesting that there are more charges coming down the pike for the man with the Nixon tattoo. This latest subpoena from SDNY is the first (known) legal action taken against Trump’s inauguration, and one quick glance at any of these legal documents issued by Mueller and SDNY proves this massive, sprawling investigation is not confined to shenanigans that took place during and before 2016, and it seems as if investigators are just starting to pull the thread on whatever happened in early 2017.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.