New York federal prosecutors are looking into potential financial wrongdoing by President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and Ivanka Trump’s involvement in price negotiations for space rental in the Trump International Hotel in D.C.
According to reporting by WNYC and ProPublica, President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee paid large sums of money to the Trump organization to host events at the Trump-owned property, and the president’s daughter discussed charging $175,000 per day for the space, despite organizers’ concerns that it would look like the Trumps were lining their pockets.
“These events are in PE’s [the president-elect’s] honor at his hotel and one of them is for family and close friends. Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge. I understand that compared to the original pricing this is great but we should look at the whole context. In my opinion the max rental fee should be $85,000 per day,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, an event planner who helped with the inauguration, wrote to caution Ivanka and others involved with the planning.
While it is not known what price was ultimately negotiated, if it was above market rate, the committee may have violated tax law. “The fact that the inaugural committee did business with the Trump Organization raises huge ethical questions about the potential for undue enrichment,” former IRS official Marcus Owens told WNYC and ProPublica.
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A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer denied the first daughter’s involvement in the negotiations: “When contacted by someone working on the inauguration, Ms. Trump passed the inquiry on to a hotel official and said only that any resulting discussions should be at a ‘fair market rate.’ Ms. Trump was not involved in any additional discussions.”
The Trump inaugural committee also drew attention because it raised more money than prior inaugurations by a large amount. Trump’s committee raised almost $107 million dollars, dwarfing spending for other presidential inaugurations. Forty million dollars of that remains unaccounted for, thanks to lax reporting requirements for inaugural committee spending.
“They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” Greg Jenkins, who ran George W. Bush’s second inauguration, told WNYC and ProPublica. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.”
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have also published investigative reports on inaugural spending in the past few days, with the Times reporting that federal prosecutors are looking into whether foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates illegally donated to the inaugural fund. Ivanka Trump is also under scrutiny for using her personal email account for government business. And the swamp continues to get swampier, thanks to the Trump family.