An ABC News exclusive report says that the Special Counsel probe into Russia’s election attacks and foreign influence peddling just zeroed in on the Trump Inaugural Committee’s foreign donors from a specific group of countries.
The AP recently reported that Mueller recently interviewed the Inaugural Chairman Tom Barrack, aka “the Trump Whisperer.” The committee’s deputy chairman is the convicted, cooperating witness Rick Gates.
President Trump had a tiny inaugural crowd but raised an epic amount of money, much of it from foreign sources. He managed to double the amount President Obama raised for the largest assembly of Americans in Washington D.C.’s history when he was sworn into the Oval Office.
Now, Special Counsel Mueller is probing those donations from foreign sources in countries who proceeded immediately to receive inside access to President Trump, state visits and other significant diplomatic interactions with the White House, which are normally handled by diplomats at the State Department. ABC News reports:
According to a source who has sat with the Mueller team for interviews in recent weeks, the special counsel is examining donors who have either business or personal connections in Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Several donors with those ties contributed large sums to the non-profit fundraising entity – gifts that topped out at $1 million dollars, according to public records.
Special counsel investigators have also asked witnesses about specific inauguration donors, including American businessmen Leonard Blavatnik, and Andrew Intrater, according to sources familiar with the Mueller sessions.
Neither has been accused of any wrongdoing.
Another glaring example of the foreign donations to Trump’s inauguration is a $500,000 donation that Venezuela’s government gave through its American gas company Citgo, which bought the oil-rich country’s officials an audience with Vice President Pence.
But sanctioned Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg’s subsidiary company Columbus Nova is probably at the heart of Mueller’s current probe.
The firm was just caught paying off Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and they donated $285,000 to the Inaugural Committee through the same firm. He even attended the big party with cousin, US citizen Andrew Intrater.
One of Vekselberg’s biggest business partners is a Soviet-emigre and US citizen Leonard Blavatnik, who each took home $7 billion by selling their Russian oil company shares to Putin’s Rosneft in 2013.
Vekselberg and Blavatnik are also partners with sanctioned, Kremlin-connected Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in his company Rusal, the vast aluminum manufacturing company. ABC reports that he too is under Mueller’s microscope:
Special counsel investigators have also asked witnesses about specific inauguration donors, including American [businessman] Leonard Blavatnik…
Blavatnik is a billionaire with dual U.S. and British citizenship who has extensive business ties in Russia. Blavatnik gave $1 million to the inaugural fund through his company, Access Industries, according to FEC records. Companies are prohibited from giving donations to political candidates, however, donations to inaugural committees are not considered donations to candidates.
President Trump delivered Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica tested lines to “drain the swamp” with fervor during the 2016 election campaign, meaning to get the influence of lobbyists out of Washington, D.C.
But as he later admitted, the phrase has absolutely no meaning to him, other than another applause line in his twisted political reality TV show of corruption and greed.
The Trump Inaugural Committee immediately set about taking in as much cash as humanly possible. Only a few months after the inaugural, major questions arose about the massive sums raised for the paltry party.
We only found out this February when they filed taxes, that Trump’s Inaugural Committee had funneled a quarter of the funds to a personal friend of Melania Trump, who had no known job duties since the usual event planner was paid $25 million for the same role.
Ironically, President Trump is still obsessed with the paltry crowd sizes at his inauguration, bringing up yet another lie about the poorly attended event just last month.
Special Counsel Mueller’s new obsession with Trump’s inauguration – helped by a highly placed cooperating witness like Rick Gates and UAE agent George Nader – can only mean bad news for the President’s ever-eroding legal position.
Watch Rachel Maddow sound the alarm on Trump’s inaugural committee last year: