No matter how much President Donald Trump wants to scream away his federal investigations as a “WITCH HUNT”, they’re not going away anytime soon. According to internal sources who spoke with The New York Times, it was just revealed that prosecutors are currently examining whether foreign officials illegally laundered campaign donations to committees and certain pro-Trump SuperPACs as a way to buy influence over United States policy.
The newspaper writes the criminal probe, organised by the Southern District of New York (SDNY), stems from material found during the FBI’s raids on Michael Cohen’s residence and office in April. The targets reportedly include The Rebuilding America Now SuperPAC and the inaugural committee who are being investigated beyond the scope of #RussiaGate, the federal probe currently being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Muller.
Instead of an exclusive look of how the Russian government supposedly influenced the 2016 election — which spans from unpopular state-funded Facebook memes to NRA-laundered campaign donations — the focus will rather close on whether political influencers across Middle Eastern nations, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, used rat-hole donors to funnel their funds into the campaign wallet of then president-elect Trump and his associated management groups.
“The line of questioning underscores the growing scope of criminal inquiries that pose a threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency,” write journalists Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman and Adam Goldman. “The special counsel… is focusing on whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to tip the 2016 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, while prosecutors in New York are pursuing evidence he secretly authorized illegal payments of hush money to silence accusations of extramarital affairs that threatened his campaign.”
Another report from The Wall Street Journal discovered that Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and reportedly one of Trump’s closest friends, who was in charge of raising money for both funds. If illegal action happened, it all went through him. “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity,” denied Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Barrack, who is obviously paid to issue such see-no-evil statement.
The Times’ sources, however, detail his exploits differently. It’s said that former campaign chair Paul Manafort was the one who tasked Barrack with creating and raising funds for the political action committee after the president’s unexpected win in 2016. Traditionally, direct donations to candidates are subject to a limitation cap — as to avoid unequal monetary influence by the rich over the poor — while SuperPACs can raise unlimited funds as long as law enforcement isn’t aware of close coordination with the candidate.
Manafort, alongside inaugural committee aide Rick Gates, were recently indicted for tax, financial, and bank fraud crimes by Mueller. Their latest offence, it appears, is using these rat-holes to curry official favours from the administration at the exchange of international nations’ under-the-table support. Cohen, the former Trump personal attorney who was recently sentenced to three years in prison on federal charges, was the administration’s fixer who possibly knew of such international deals if proven true.
This corruption isn’t unlikely given the Trump team raised twice as much as the 2009 Obama committee despite the president hold record unapproval ratings among the general population. It’s doubtful their support average out to around $27 small-dollar donations at a time, ala Bernie Sanders. This isn’t to say the average people weren’t suckered into paying the alleged billionaire’s campaign fees. According to CBNC’s own Christina Wilkie and data from the Center for Responsive Politics, reports indicate that more than half of donations came from individual donors and nobody gave more than casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s $5 million… at least on paper.
The administration will surely use this data to maintain the narrative of a populist for the people, meanwhile, the specific people who fund the president’s expenses haven’t been entirely identified, as Wilkie wrote Friday. “Take, for example, Frank Rodriguez,” she wrote, “supposedly a resident of Singapore who is listed as having given $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural fund. The address listed for Rodriguez in Singapore, however, doesn’t match up with any residences, or offer any ways to follow up.”
This could be the example of poor donation recording, which is a lenient reality under the privatised campaign finance system, or simply follows the nature of rat-holes where the funds are in someone else’s throw-away name and can be repeated across time. Consider the myth of voter fraud, where people supposedly change their name and clothes for a chance to sway the vote numerous times their right, in the context of laundering funds. Fraud could be a successful business model for those who want to fund their lavish inauguration events on a tight budget.
As always, the president’s swearing-in event itself and the surrounding security are paid for by the federal government, though most of those privatised funds go towards these rather bourgeois social cabals to piss away the donations before unspent piles of cashed are pissed away to particular charities of choice. Eventually, Trump’s inaugural committee donated around $5 million of its funds between the Red Cross, the Salvation Army among other organisations — leaving $101 million for pleasure.
IRS filings indicate that, on paper, these were itemised through conferences, conventions and meetings and large payments to staff, such as the $26 million paid to a senior adviser working under first lady Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, through WIS Media Partners, an event production firm. The Times reported that only $1.6 million of those payments were used to actually pay the staff who worked for her while however the rest of this money was used, or who it was given to, remains unclear.
This payment saw Wolkoff, along with another firm Hargrove Inc (receiving another $25 million), rise closer to the economic status of Trump’s own “finance vice chairs” who were in charge of such events. Among the Republican elite included Adelson and fellow casino business partner Steve Wynn, defence contractor Elliott Broidy (accused of issuing hush money payments to a sexually exploited Playboy model) and Anthony Scaramucci (the notorious White House communications director fired after 10 days in public office). Barrack secured the donations of all, meanwhile holding his own personal business interests with the aforementioned Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, alongside the help of Gates, quoted as being the “shadow chair” of the inauguration and Barrack’s “chief deputy.”
These men were in charge of the pay-to-play political access events for the president. The game is simple, the more donations you give the more directly you can speak with those in power. As Vox reports, these access events included a $1 million for a “Leadership Luncheon” at the Trump’s hotel, $500,000 for a dinner with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and $250,000 for a candlelight dinner at Union Station with the Trumps and Pences, citing a document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
OpenSecrets.org sum up the donations and influencers here:
- “Finance industry big shots: Robert Mercer (whom the New Yorker later dubbed “the reclusive hedge-fund tycoon behind the Trump presidency”), Paul Singer (another hedge fund billionaire who funds the Washington Free Beacon website, which, oddly enough, had paid the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump during the primaries), and Steve Cohen (whose hedge fund group was closed down due to insider trading allegations) all donated $1 million each.
- Corporate America: The inaugural committee raised $2 million from AT&T; $1 million each from Bank of America, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Pfizer, and Qualcomm; and at least $500,000 each from JPMorgan Chase, FedEx, Chevron, Exxon, Fidelity, Intel, Citgo, and BP America.
- Secretive conservative groups: The American Action Network, a dark-money nonprofit that’s spent tens of millions on elections since 2010, gave $1 million. Another million came in from a mysterious shell company called “BH Group, LLC,” and its true source remained mysterious for more than a year. Only this year did journalist Robert Maguire trace that contribution to a group tied to the conservative legal movement and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo, who’s found a prominent role advising Trump on judicial nominations.”
Where the rest of the money went — a staggering $50 million — remains unknown. These outlets explain around $10 million in total went to another three vendors, $4.6 million was paid out as salaries, and $5 million was left over and given out as grants, however, this doesn’t add up to a complete picture of the people’s influential money. Such committees, as non-profits, aren’t subject to the disclosure of forms they wouldn’t find flattering under scrutiny. Until federal prosecutors shed light, the mystery of the billionaire’s funds remains under hush.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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