The investigation by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York into Donald Trump, his business, and his 2016 presidential campaign reportedly did not end with the sentencing of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to three years in a federal penitentiary on Wednesday, according to a blockbuster new investigation by the Wall Street Journal published on Thursday. The prosecutors are now probing the money raised by Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee, amid growing questions about where that money came from and how it was spent, the Journal reported.
Trump collected a staggering $107 million in donations toward his January 20, 2017, inauguration, according to National Public Radio. That whopping sum is more than double the previous record, which was $53 million raised for the 2009 inauguration of then-newly elected President Barack Obama.
But questions remain about where and how that $107 million was spent, and earlier this year, as New York Magazine reported, Trump’s inaugural committee continued its refusal to account for how that money was spent.
Now, according to the Journal expose, the SDNY has opened criminal investigation into Trump’s inauguration spending. The prosecutors want to know “whether the committee accepted donations from individuals looking to gain influence in or access to the new administration” according to a CNN account.
But the former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, 58-year-old Chuck Rosenberg, said in an MSNBC interview on Thursday that the investigation could go far beyond the inauguration spending itself.
“The Trump Organization more and more appears to be a criminal organization,” Rosenberg, who served as US Attorney from 2006 to 2008, said in the interview. “What The Wall Street Journal appears to be describing is a possible public corruption, pay-to-play bribery case in which incoming officials or officials sold access. That’s illegal.”
Trump’s inaugural committee issued a statement in response to the Journal report, saying that it had been “in full compliance with all applicable laws,” according to the CNN report. The committee also said that it was unaware of any criminal investigation into the donations toward Trump’s inauguration. “We simply have no evidence the investigation exists,” the statement read.
In his MSNBC interview, Rosenberg also reacted to a statement by Trump disclaiming responsibility for the “hush money” payments made to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to silence them about their affair with Trump. Both Cohen and SFNY prosecutors said that Trump ordered Cohen to make the payments, which were illegal campaign finance donations, the prosecutors determined. In a Fox News interview, Trump said that he relied on Cohen’s legal knowledge in making the payments.
“(Trump) may have opened up a whole new avenue of hurt legally if he really wants to assert that he relied on Cohen,” Rosenberg said in the MSNBC interview. “I don’t think that’s going to work, and I don’t think its wise.”