People walk by Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan on December 10 in New York City. President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has come under increased scrutiny as his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison last week.

People walk by Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan on December 10 in New York City. President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has come under increased scrutiny as his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison last week.

While the Mueller investigation has generated nearly endless speculation and headlines, the Southern District of New York is pursuing what NBC Legal Analyst Daniel Goldman says is “a third flank of legal concern for President Donald Trump.”

Goldman’s assessment comes from the sentencing submission for the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

And The Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors are now looking at how Trump’s inaugural committee spent some of the $107 million it raised.

The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.

The investigation represents another potential legal threat to people who are or were in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Their business dealings and activities during and since the campaign have led to a number of indictments and guilty pleas. Many of the president’s biggest campaign backers were involved in the inaugural fund.

And ProPublica and WNYC reported Friday that some of the money apparently went to the president’s business.

The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.

During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

We’ll catch up on the latest reports, and look into what the Southern District of New York is investigating.

Produced by Amanda Williams.

Guests

  • Rebecca Ballhaus Wall Street Journal reporter covering the White House and money in politics. @rebeccaballhaus
  • Justin Elliott ProPublica Reporter covering money in politics; works on the Trump, Inc. podcast from ProPublica and WNYC. @JustinElliott

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