Ivanka Trump Helped Her Dad's Inauguration Pay The Family Business, A New Report Says
It looks like there may be another Trump family scandal on the horizon: According to a new investigation by WNYC and ProPublica, Ivanka Trump helped her dad's inaugural committee pay the Trump Organization for various services during the president's swearing-in — and may have overcharged for them.
The news comes a day after the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both reported independently that investigators are probing the inaugural committee, a registered non-profited, for possible illegalities. Bustle has reached out to the White House, the Trump Organization and a spokesperson for Ivanka's ethics lawyer for comment.
According to WNYC and ProPublica, some of the $107 million that the inaugural committee raised was paid to the Trump Organization for hotel rooms, meals and event space during the inauguration. The report says that Ivanka played a key role in negotiating the prices of renting these spaces, and that one of the planners emailed her to "express my concern" that the Trump Organization was charging too much for rooms in its Washington D.C. hotel for the inauguration.
"Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge," organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff told Ivanka, according to emails obtained by WYNC and ProPublica.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Ivanka's ethics lawyer, told WYNC and ProPublica that Ivanka's role in the negotiations was minimal.
“When contacted by someone working on the inauguration, Ms. Trump passed the inquiry on to a hotel official and said only that any resulting discussions should be at a ‘fair market rate,’" Mirijanian said. "Ms. Trump was not involved in any additional discussions.” According WYNC and ProPublica, Mirijanian didn't offer evidence that Ivanka had sought a "fair market rate."
The WYNC/ProPublica investigation isn't the first report of possible wrongdoing by the Trump inaugural committee. On Thursday, the Journal reported that the Manhattan district attorney's office is investigating whether the committee broke federal law in how it distributed the $107 million it raised for President Trump's swearing in, while Times reported the same day that federal investigators are looking at whether the committee and a pro-Trump PAC accepted illegal foreign funds.
Trump's inauguration ceremony cost nearly twice as much as Barack Obama's, according to WNYC and ProPublica, though it drew a far smaller crowd. But according to the WNYC/ProPublica report, about $40 million of the total money spent by the inaugural committee is unaccounted for. That's because inaugural committees are only required by law to disclose its top five vendors.
“They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” Greg Jenkins, who led George W. Bush's second inauguraiton, told WNYC and ProPublica in March. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.” Steve Kerrigan, who led both of Obama’s inaugural committees, told WNYC and ProPublica that "we literally did two inaugurations for less than the cost" of Trump's.
The IRS could force the Trump Organization to refund money and pay a fine if it's determined to have overcharged for services during the inauguration, WNYC and ProPublica reported, and because the inaugural committee was formed in Virginia, that state's attorney general has the option of launching an investigation as well.