In 2009, President Obama and his inauguration team oversaw the largest inauguration crowd in American history. They hauled in $55 million in private donations to cover the expenses. Fast forward to 2017 and Team Trump collected a record-breaking $107 million, but much of the eye-popping haul came from mysterious sources. One mega-donor has now been revealed. From Robert Maguire of McClatchy DC:
One of the largest contributions to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016 appears to have been orchestrated by a set of powerful conservative legal activists who have since been put in the driver’s seat of the administration’s push to select and nominate federal judges.
The $1 million inaugural gift came from a Northern Virginia company called BH Group, LLC. Unlike other generous corporate inaugural donors, like Bank of America and Dow Chemical, though, BH Group was a cipher, and likely was set up solely to prevent disclosure of the actual donor’s name.
Almost nothing is known about the company, including who runs it or its reason for being beyond writing a seven-figure check on Dec. 22, 2016, almost a month before Trump was sworn in.
While the source of the money used to make the gift was masked from the public, a trail of clues puts the contribution at the doorstep of some of the same actors — most notably Leonard Leo, an executive vice president at the conservative Federalist Society — who have helped promote Trump’s mission, and that of his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fill judicial vacancies as quickly as he can with staunchly conservative, preferably young jurists.
Cool, cool. The Federalist Society essentially bought our court system, placing extreme right-wing judges throughout our court system, a disruption that could take decades to unwind.
So, just how unusual was this $107 million payday for the Trump team and where did that money go? MSNBC’s Ari Melber spoke to the president of Obama’s inaugural committee, Steve Kerrigan, to shed some light on the unusual situation. Kerrigan notes that Trump paid $26 million to a friend of Melania Trump’s for only a few weeks of work, noting that is four times more than the total amount paid to 450 staffers for Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
Melber and Kerrigan also highlighted the selfies and celebratory photos of suspect Russians in and around Trump and key cabinet members during the inauguration festivities.
Was the inauguration fund a vehicle for corruption? If so, that could add to the legal woes on the horizon for Donald Trump. Rick Gates, a key Trump inauguration staffer and fundraiser is cooperating with Robert Mueller. From Vox:
Special counsel Robert Mueller just flipped another former Trump staffer. Rick Gates — Paul Manafort’s longtime junior business partner and a 2016 Trump campaign aide — agreed to a plea deal in Mueller’s investigation Friday afternoon in which he’ll cooperate with the probe.
Gates pleaded to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making false statements to the FBI. In exchange, other charges related to money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and making other false statements will be dropped. Here are his statement of offense and plea agreement.