Prosecutors probing Trump inauguration spending: report

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking into whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE's inaugural committee misspent funds or accepted donations in exchange for access to the administration, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Journal reported that many of the president's biggest campaign supporters were contributors to his inaugural fund. Donating in exchange for political favors or using funds for purposes other than the inauguration could violate federal laws.

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The news outlet, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the investigation is in its early stages, and stemmed from materials obtained during an FBI raid earlier this year of longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

Investigators in those raids reportedly obtained a recorded conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain White House announces spring garden tour dates Trump heard sermon on calling out hate speech at St. Patrick's day church service MORE who worked on the inauguration. 

Wolkoff is heard expressing concern about how the committee was spending money, the Journal reported, but the news outlet could not determine when the conversation took place.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders distanced Trump from the inauguration committee Thursday.

"That doesn't have anything to do with the president or the first lady," Sanders told reporters.

"The biggest thing the president did, his engagement in the inauguration, was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office. The president was focused on the transition at that time and not on any of the planning for the inauguration."

A lawyer close to the matter told the Journal that the inaugural committee, which is registered as a nonprofit, has not been contacted by prosecutors.

"We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists," the lawyer told the news outlet.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump's inaugural committee raised nearly $107 million, more than double what Trump's predecessor raised for his first inaugural.

Trump's inauguration consisted of more than 20 events in total, including a concert near the Lincoln Memorial and a pair of inaugural galas.

The Journal said it could not determine which funds are under scrutiny by prosecutors.

Previous reports have indicated that law enforcement was interested in certain individuals with ties to Russia attending the festivities in January 2017.

The Washington Post reported in January that the FBI expressed concerns about several Russians connected to the Kremlin who were in Washington, D.C., that weekend, and ABC News reported in June that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE was looking into how several Russian oligarchs were given access to invitation-only parties.

An investigation by Manhattan prosecutors into the inauguration committee would represent yet another legal dilemma for Trump, who has had five former associates implicated in the Mueller investigation.

Cohen, who worked for years at the Trump Organization, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations he said he made when he paid two women at Trump's direction to cover up alleged affairs with the president.

Trump has denied he directed Cohen to break the law, and has insisted he did not collude with Russia.

-Updated 7:51 p.m.