The wheel of investigations related to President Trump has spun back around to his inaugural committee. On Monday, federal investigators issued a wide-ranging subpoena for officials managing the nonprofit organization to turn over documents related to donors, contractors, disclosure filings and more. Reportedly of interest are a host of potential violations, including money laundering, election fraud, the possibility the committee made false statements to the Federal Election Commission and the possibility the committee accepted foreign contributions, which is illegal. The inaugural committee brought in a record $107 million in donations and, somehow, spent nearly all of it. President Obama’s 2009 inaugural committee raised a then-record $55 million (Obama’s 2013 committee raised $43 million).
“We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” a spokesperson for the committee told ABC News, the first outlet to report the filing.
Suspicions over how the committee spent its money were raised as early as the summer of 2017. After the committee filed its tax returns the next February, the New York Times reported on a trove of questionable expenditures suggesting the committee may have been little more than a nine-figure slush fund. In May, ABC News reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was questioning witnesses — including committee chairman Thomas Barrack — about donations to the committee, specifically those coming from donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In December, it was reported that the Southern District of New York was also investigating potential corruption within the committee. The SDNY that filed the subpoena on Monday.
The only individual named in the subpoena is venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, who has connections to some of the countries flagged by Mueller. Records show that Zuberi’s firm, Avenue Ventures, donated $900,000 to the committee. In December 2016, Zuberi visited Trump Tower in New York with incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who along with former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon was scheduled to meet with a delegation from Qatar. Though he wasn’t in the meetings with Trump officials, Zuberi also met with the Qataris at Trump Tower, and then met with the Qatari foreign minister the following day. The Washington Post points to Facebook posts that place Zuberi in Saudi Arabia and the UAE days later.
“Imaad knows nothing about a subpoena, other than what is being written,” Steve Rabinowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, told ABC. “It is well known that after supporting President Obama and later Hillary Clinton that Imaad gave generously and directly to the Trump inaugural committee, but many others gave substantially more. If, in fact, he is named in this subpoena, never mind somehow named alone, he is bewildered why.”
Though no one associated with the Trump campaign or Trump administration has been targeted specifically for their work on the inaugural committee, there is some overlap. Much of the committee’s fundraising efforts were led by Rick Gates, a senior campaign official who along with campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted as part of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. Last February, Gates pleaded guilty to several charges and has reportedly been cooperating with both the special counsel’s office and the SDNY. He even testified against his longtime colleague Paul Manafort last August. While on the stand, Gates allowed that it is “possible” that he drew up false expense reports so that he could steal from the inaugural committee. The SDNY may soon know for sure.