Fraught with fraud?
Senior Fellow Chris Lu writes about allegations of wrongdoing during Trump's inauguration
[Read the full article at USA Today]
Presidential inaugural celebrations are splashy, multiday affairs that usually fade quickly into history. As with so many things involving Donald Trump, his January 2017 inauguration hasn't followed the usual pattern.
On Monday, federal prosecutors in New York issued a subpoena to Trump's inaugural committee for documents related to possible fraud, money laundering, and false statements.
Almost from the moment Trump took office, his inauguration was engulfed in controversy. On the president's first full day in office, then-spokesman Sean Spicer was dispatched to announce (despite clear evidence to the contrary) that the crowd was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe."
Since that surreal moment, questions continued to be asked about the inauguration.
The Trump inaugural committee raised an eye-popping $106.7 million—double the previous record set by Barack Obama's first inauguration—yet organized far fewer events than Obama did. Two years later, there has been little transparency about how all that money was spent and what became of any surplus funds.
When some spending details were finally revealed, eyebrows were raised about: a $1.6 million "supervisory fee" to a close friend of Melania Trump; $2.7 million to a performance group working for one of the president's friends; and $1.5 million to the Trump International Hotel. The head of George W. Bush's second inauguration said Trump's inaugural spending "blows me away."
Beyond questions about how the money was spent, investigators are apparently probing whether foreigners, including from Russia and Middle East countries, violated federal law by donating to the Trump inaugural committee, possibly in return from policy favors. Already, a Republican lobbyist has pleaded guilty to arranging for a Ukrainian oligarch to buy $50,000 worth of tickets to an inaugural event using an American "straw" purchaser.