Prosecutors open new Trump investigation

Crowds fill the National Mall in Washington before Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.Federal prosecutors are investigating whether US President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee misspent some of the record $US107 million it raised from donors, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, citing people it said were familiar with the matter.

The early-stage investigation by the Manhattan US attorney’s office is examining whether some of the committee’s donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the Manhattan US attorney’s office declined to comment.

Asked about the report, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters the president was not involved in his inaugural committee.

“The last thing a president-elect has time for is inaugural fund-raising,” he said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also said the inauguration had nothing to do with Trump or his wife, Melania.

“The biggest thing the president did in his engagement in the inauguration was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office,” Sanders told reporters.

The probe into the inaugural committee comes as Trump and his White House are already facing investigations into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, hush-money payments to women claiming to have had affairs with Trump and spending by Trump’s foundation, among other issues.

According to the Journal, the investigation into the inaugural committee partly stemmed from materials seized in a probe into the dealings of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Cohen was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating the hush payments in violation of campaign laws.

Although campaign finance laws restrict the size of campaign contributions, inaugurations can accept unlimited donations, including from corporations.

The amount raised by Trump’s inaugural committee, chaired by real estate developer and investor Thomas Barrack, was the largest in history, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

The Journal said there was no sign the probe was targeting Barrack. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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