Trump amassed a record $107 million in contributions to his inaugural committee. Previous presidents had kept donations low in an effort to avoid the appearance of selling presidential access — or favors.
As much as $45 million to the committee came from companies, some of which have served to shield the identities of the individual donors behind them. Following an investigation last year by HuffPost, the committee also admitted that it had made numerous errors in a list of donors it filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Mueller’s team has talked to witnesses about millions of dollars in contributions from donors to the inaugural committee with links to Russia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, ABC reported, based on information from a source who has been present at recent interviews. Donations from some of those individual donors surpassed $1 million each, ABC said.
One of those questioned was California billionaire real estate investor Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump who was in charge of fundraising for the inaugural committee. Barrack has substantial private equity holdings in the Middle East.
One donor being scrutinized by Mueller’s team is American Andrew Intrater, who is both a business associate and relative of Russian multibillionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who owns the Russian global conglomerate Renova Group. That company was sanctioned in April by the U.S. Treasury Department to punish Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election and other suspected “malign activity.”
Vekselberg, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is an investor in New York investment company Columbus Nova. Renova recently listed Columbus Nova as a subsidiary, and it was identified as such in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Intrater, the CEO of Columbus Nova, donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration committee, according to FEC filings.
Columbus Nova also reportedly paid Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen $500,000 for consultant fees after Trump’s election. The company has acknowledged the payments to Cohen regarding information concerning “potential sources of capital and ... investments in real estate and other ventures.” But the company statement denied that Vekselberg had anything to do with the money.
Columbus Nova was also involved in registering domain names during the presidential election for websites appealing to white nationalists, The Washington Post reported this week.