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. 
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Trump’s inaugural committee reportedly facing criminal scrutiny

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/31/18, 9:45 PM ET

New light shines on 'blatantly shady' Trump inauguration finances

Rachel Maddow outlines the ways in which the financing of Donald Trump inauguration defy obvious explanation and why the guilty plea by Sam Patten could help resolve some unanswered questions about the flow of that money.
There’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. There’s the campaign-finance scandal in which Donald Trump has already been implicated in felonies. There’s the Trump Foundation, which is also under investigation.

And in case that weren’t quite enough, the Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon that Trump’s inaugural committee is also facing a criminal investigation.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said.

The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Some of this scrutiny, the article added, is the result of information gleaned from Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney/fixer, who was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.

As regular readers know, by many metrics, Trump’s inaugural fund 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 nearly $107 million, much of which went unspent during poorly attended festivities.

The trouble is, the president’s team has struggled for months to explain exactly where all of that money went.

The original plan was for the inaugural committee to donate excess funds to charity, and Trump World planned to release details about those contributions in April 2017. That never happened.

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

And as a rule, when these guys act like they have something to hide, it’s because they have something to hide.

The story took another turn earlier this year when we learned the inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm run by one of Melania Trump’s friends – which seemed problematic, though it still didn’t explain where the rest of the pot of money went.

The Wall Street Journal’s report added that Richard Gates, the Trump campaign’s former deputy chairman, who’s already pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller, has faced questions from prosecutors, “about the fund’s spending and its donors.”

Donald Trump and his operation didn’t need another criminal investigation. It looks like they have one anyway.

Postscript: Remember when voters were told they couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because the country would have to endure four years of scandals and investigations?

Donald Trump, Inauguration and Scandals

Trump's inaugural committee reportedly facing criminal scrutiny

Updated