President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan.20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. 
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Questions surround Trump’s $25 million inaugural concert

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/20/17, 9:00 PM ET

Excess Trump inauguration cash pairs with donor access

Rachel Maddow reports on the unusually large amount of money raised for the relatively small Trump inauguration and notes that some large donors with ties to Venezuela were granted access to the Trump White House.
We’ve been keeping an eye in recent months on Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, which by some metrics, was a great success. After his election, the Republican eliminated caps on individual contributions – caps that George W. Bush and Barack Obama both utilized – and sold “exclusive access” for seven-figure contributions.

The result was a fundraising juggernaut: Trump’s inaugural committee took in $107 million, much of which went unspent during poorly attended festivities.

The Associated Press picked up on the thread over the weekend, shining a light on an increasingly interesting mystery.

President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised an unprecedented $107 million for a ceremony that officials promised would be “workmanlike,” and the committee pledged to give leftover funds to charity. Nearly eight months later, the group has helped pay for redecorating at the White House and the vice president’s residence in Washington.

But nothing has yet gone to charity.

What is left from the massive fundraising is a mystery, clouded by messy and, at times, budget-busting management of a private fund that requires little public disclosure.

Of particular interest was the AP’s discovery that Trump’s committee spent $25 million on a pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which the Associated Press described as “head-scratching” for good reason. Barack Obama’s pre-inaugural concert at the same location eight years earlier featured far higher-profile entertainers, roughly 40 times as many attendees, and cost one-fifth as much.

As for the leftover money going to charity, Trump’s committee originally said it’d release the details of its charitable donations in April, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the committee said in April that it was still “identifying charities toward which it would direct leftover money.” That was nearly five months ago.

Making matters slightly worse, we don’t know why we don’t know. Consider this excerpt from the Associated Press piece:

Leaders of previous inaugurations expressed surprise at the slow timeline. They say they had a general handle on their finances – and had already started giving money away – within three months of Inauguration Day, though formally closing down the committees took many months longer.

“The thing about inaugural expenses, they’re not complicated,” said Steve Kerrigan, head of President Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural committee. “You take money in, you pay it out, and then you know what you’re left with when it’s done.”

Something is clearly very different about Trump’s inauguration, and no one involved has explained why.

Tom Barrack, a friend of the president’s who heads the inaugural committee, told the AP there’s already been an audit of the committee’s finances, but the committee “would not share a copy with AP or say who performed it.”

The more it seems like these guys have something to hide, the more I’m curious what that might be.

Donald Trump, Fundraising and Inauguration

Questions surround Trump's $25 million inaugural concert