President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive to the "Make America Great Again Welcome Concert" at the Lincoln Memorial, Jan. 19, 2017, in Washington. 
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Trump-aligned super PAC draws prosecutors’ scrutiny, too

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/13/18, 9:26 PM ET

Trump inauguration finances under criminal investigation: WSJ

Rebecca Davis O’Brien, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into how the Trump inauguration committee raised and spent the record amounts of money
Donald Trump is under investigation. Trump’s business is under investigation. Trump’s campaign operation is under investigation. Trump’s transition team is under investigation. Trump’s foundation is under investigation. Trump’s inaugural committee is under investigation.

Trump’s former campaign chairman and deputy chairman have already pleaded guilty to multiple felonies. Trump’s former White House National Security Advisor and Trump’s former personal attorney have both pleaded guilty to felonies, and are either awaiting sentencing or are already headed to prison.

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is ongoing, and by some measures, the probe appears to be intensifying.

Oh, and did I mention that the Trump-aligned super PAC is facing prosecutors’ scrutiny, too?

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, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations – including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.

Right about now, some of the president’s allies are probably thinking, “This one shouldn’t be too big a problem for Team Trump, since super PACs are required by law to operate independently of campaigns.”

But in this case, that argument isn’t nearly as effective as the White House’s supporters might hope.

As the New York Times’ report explained, the super PAC in question, Rebuilding America Now, was formed in the summer of 2016, when the Trump campaign’s finances were struggling. The Republican campaign’s then-chairman, Paul Manafort, recommended that his and Trump’s ally, Tom Barrack, take the lead in helping raise money for the super PAC.

As the Times  added, Barrack, who also oversaw Trump’s inaugural committee, later told investigators that the campaign chairman “seemed to view the political committee as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent such coordination.”

What’s more, Manafort “dispatched two friends from the campaign, Laurance Gay and Ken McKay, to run” the super PAC operation.

To argue that the Rebuilding America Now operation, which is reportedly now facing prosecutors’ scrutiny, was somehow distinct from the president’s campaign operation, is to overlook every relevant detail.

Donald Trump and Scandals

Trump-aligned super PAC draws prosecutors' scrutiny, too

Updated