Bloomberg - February 21, 2019
Trump’s Inaugural Team Scrambled to Defend Staff and Record Haul
by Caleb Melby
A peek behind the scenes as the Inaugural Committee circles its wagons. To me, their flagrant attempts to coordinate their cover stories smack of desperation.
The leaders of President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee saw trouble coming and tried to get ahead of it.
It was January 2018, a year after the black-tie balls and candlelight dinners in Washington. Journalists were asking questions about how the Presidential Inaugural Committee had raised – and spent – a record amount of money. The committee, known as PIC, was set to release additional details about its finances in public tax filings. Complicating matters, a key committee staffer, Rick Gates, had months earlier been indicted for lobbying work he’d done with Paul Manafort in Ukraine.
To get everyone on the same page, a team reporting to inaugural chairman Thomas Barrack came up with more than 60 questions and answers to circulate among themselves. One question was particularly tricky.
“What did Rick Gates have to do with [the President’s Inaugural Committee]?’’ staffers wrote in a late January draft. “(Need answer.)”
The draft document, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, shows how the group prepared to defend its work as questions intensified about its reported $107 million haul. According to nine inaugural staffers and others familiar with the committee’s efforts, the process of planning for Trump’s big week was chaotic and opaque, dominated by staff culled from Colony Capital, the real estate firm founded by Barrack, and by ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort’s circle of associates.
Many financial decisions were centralized in Barrack’s office, and Gates, dubbed “deputy to the chairman,” was Barrack’s right-hand man, with responsibilities spanning everything from finances to entertainment, according to several people with knowledge of his involvement.
Now, federal prosecutors in New York are asking their own questions about the inaugural committee, looking for potential money laundering, false statements, mail and wire fraud, according to a subpoena sent earlier this month, according to news reports. The New Jersey attorney general sent a separate civil subpoena to the committee, ABC News reported…
Wow, the money was being handled by Manafort’s associates. What could possibly go wrong?
I’d missed the fact that the committee is under investigation by two states. I was aware that New York was investigating, but hadn’t heard about the subpoena from New Jersey.
Recapping, here’s the announcement of the New York subpoena that dropped Feb. 4:
And the New Jersey subpoena that dropped about a week later: