Feds Gonna LOCK HER UP Trump's Whooooole Inauguration
Shhhhhh! You hear that faint whirring noise? That's the sound of the Republican Slime Machine creaking into action to defend Team Treason from paying the price for alllll their crimes. Allegedly! The Bat Signal went out, and the next GOP target will be federal prosecutors in Manhattan who just dropped a giant-ass criminal subpoena on Donald Trump's inaugural committee. Goodbye Rod Rosenstein, and hello Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As Michael Cohen might say, what they're going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting!
Cohen himself got the ball rolling by recording a conversation with Melania's former BFF Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff, who had been hired to plan the inauguration festivities, natch. Wolkoff, who was personally paid $1.6 million dollars for her mad party-planning skillz, worried that the Trump hotel was overcharging for rooms, because, "when this is audited it will become public knowledge." Which was a rational fear, since the feds found that treasure map in Michael Cohen's office with all the red arrows saying LOOK FOR CRIMES HERE! -- and there are now four active investigations into Trump's inauguration fuckery. If you're keeping count at home, that would be (1) the Mueller team wondering why there were so many Ukrainian oligarchs crawling all over the American presidential inauguration, (2) and (3) federal prosecutors in both Manhattan and Brooklyn trying to figure out whether there might be a wee smidge of fraud, money laundering, corruption, and/or illegal foreign donations on (or off) the campaign's books, and (4) DC prosecutors, who already got a guilty plea from Manafort's goon for using a straw donor to buy inauguration tickets for Ukrainian oligarch Pavel Fuchs. NO COLLUSION!
The SDNY is asking the Trump campaign to turn over all their shit -- they want to know every donor and attendee, who got paid and how much, how the transactions were processed, if there were any payments made off the books, and if there was even the hint of presidential access being sold via "tickets, photo opportunities, and/or small group receptions." And by asking we mean they dropped a grand jury subpoena, so GIVE IT UP.
Back in 1988, Paul Manafort was presented with a bag of cash at George H. W. Bush's inauguration, the "commission" (or "Paul tax"!) he'd worked out for himself on all the T-shirt vendors lining the parade route. But it looks like his protegé Rick Gates, who stuck around the campaign and worked on the inauguration even after his capo got booted, may just have topped him in the corruption department. Gates is reported to have asked vendors to accept payments directly from donors, which is a hell of a good way to keep a bribe off the books if you're into that sort of thing. Good thing Gates is cooperating with the feds, huh? Maybe he can 'splain why all those big donors mysteriously wound up with federal contracts. Open Secrets reports:
Of the 63 federal contractors that donated to the inauguration, more than half won multimillion-dollar bids in 2017, federal records show. Six companies earned contracts last year [in 2017] after not receiving any awards in 2016.
Prolly a coincidence!
ABC, which broke the story first, says that there is one donor specifically named in the subpoena: Imaad Zuberi, a money manager and lobbyist, who donated hundreds of thousands to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's campaigns, and was investigated by the Justice Department in 2014 for taking $4.5 million from the government of Sri Lanka, but failing to register as a foreign agent. When Trump got elected, however, Zuberi changed his tune, donating $900,000 to the inauguration, and negotiating with Michael Cohen to gain access to the incoming administration. The Daily Beast reports:
Cohen told Zuberi that he [Cohen] would be involved in the new administration's federal infrastructure spending plans, according to two sources with knowledge of the fund's management. Proposals for that spending at the time ranged from $500 billion to $1 trillion, and Cohen used the fund as a vehicle to peddle Trump administration influence. According to a report in The Intercept, Cohen asked Qatari government officials in late 2016 to chip in $1 million to the infrastructure fund in exchange for access to the Trump administration. That offer was apparently declined, but Cohen asked others for similar donations, according to those sources, and spoke with Zuberi about the fund.
Zuberi, who does business all over the world, including in Qatar and with that government, spoke with Cohen before and after the inauguration about potential business opportunities the two could embark upon during a Trump administration, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversations.
It's always Infrastructure Week with these guys! And oh, lookie here! It's Qatar again, those guys get invited to all the best parties. They know all the cool people, like Trump's business tycoon pal Tom Barrack, who was in charge of the whole inauguration and has strong ties to the country. And Michael Cohen, who was shaking the Qataris down for cash during the transition?
Wouldn't it be hilarious if the company involved in that secret Mueller subpoena case, which is "wholly owned by a foreign government," has business offices in the US, and can pay a $50,000/day fine without batting an eye was actually the Qatari Investment Authority? Hey, remember that time when Jared Kushner's family hit up the Qataris for cash and got turned down, then the Trump Administration decided the Qataris were sponsors of terrorism and endorsed the Saudi blockade of the country, only to change their minds five minutes before Kushner's family got bailed out by an investment fund which just so happens to be holding $1.8 billion of the Qatari government's money?
Was this the most corrupt inauguration in history, PERIOD? Dunno, Spicey. But we do know the GOP spinmeisters are busy prepping their #HotTakes on NEW YORK (((PROSECUTORS))) GONE WILD, trampling poor Donald's civil rights like a common brown person in their deranged mania to turn the country over to diseased MS-13 ill-eagles. That train is never late!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.