Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal (“WSJ”) broke the story that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has opened a criminal investigation into the finances of the Trump Inaugural Committee. www.wsj.com/… The WSJ reporter that broke the story, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, has stated on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the probe encompasses both money-in and money-out. See below:
Much has been written about money-in, much of which was influence-peddling to foreign governments and individuals. This column is instead about the most sensational chunk of money-out, the $26 million that the Inaugural Committee paid to WIS Media Partners, a private company set up by Melania Trump’s friend and advisor, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. www.nytimes.com/… Ms. Wolkoff and her staff reportedly received “only” $1.6 million of that $26 million. www.nytimes.com/…
And the other $24.4 million? The Inaugural Committee paid Ms. Wolkoff’s company $24.4 million to do what? Where did it go? Ms. Winston’s firm was formed only six weeks before the inauguration, on December 6, 2016. www.nytimes.com/… and www.documentcloud.org/… A real event planner and production company, Hargrove, Inc., received a different $25 million, including payment of the props and the talent; this appears legitimate, as Hargrove handled 16 presidential inaugurations, beginning with Truman’s and including Obama’s. abcnews.go.com/… But what about Ms. Wolkoff’s brand-new company? No one knows what it did for $26 million.
Donald Trump is famously tight-fisted. According to Michael Lewis’s new book, The Fifth Risk, when the transition team spent a modest amount of money for professional help and quite properly spent it from the funds Chris Christie raised for the purpose, Trump screamingly accused Christie of “stealing my fucking money.” qz.com/… Trump regards any such funds — in any organization with the Trump name on it — as his money. There is no way Trump would have overpaid Ms. Wolkoff or her company by almost $25 million.
Where did it go? We do not know. But may I strongly suggest that the Manhattan-based federal prosecutors investigating the Inaugural Committee funds at least inquire into whether the funds were used to discharge Trump’s personal obligation to pay the settlement of the Trump University case, which settled for — you guessed it — $25 million.
Not only do the two amounts coincide. The timing also coincides. The settlement of The Trump University class action lawsuit, which unfolded in federal district court in San Diego CA before Judge Gonzalo Curiel, was first announced on November 18, 2016, eighteen days before Ms. Wolkoff set up WIS Media Partners. There was plenty of time to make the payment, which did not need to be paid until after Judge Curiel approved before the settlement, which he did in February 2017, and until the settlement became final, which it did in April 2017. See www.cnn.com/… and www.nbcnews.com/…
I have no proof, only suspicion based on two coincidences, time and amount, and Trump’s predelictions. Good investigators do not believe in coincidences. Please, SDNY, respectfully, please go find out.
And please, SDNY, also consider the following: if the $25 million was spirited out of the Inauguration Committee funds to pay Trump’s personal debt, and if Trump did so secretly and without publicly reporting, does that constitute embezzlement? Or fraud? Does it constitute some other crime?
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.