Two lawmakers are asking the FBI and Federal Election Commission to investigate a shell company created in part by President Donald Trump's most powerful advisor, Jared Kushner, in response to an Insider investigation published earlier on Friday.
In a letter to the agencies obtained by Insider, House Democrats Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York wrote late Friday that Trump's campaign may have violated laws barring the spending of campaign cash for personal use and public disclosure requirements when it spent its money through American Made Media Consultants.
Lieu and Rice noted that such violations upward of $25,000 are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. Trump's campaign and an affiliated committee regularly spent millions of dollars through American Made Media Consultants, according to FEC records.
Insider reported earlier Friday that Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, helped establish the shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent almost half of the $1.26 billion in the campaign's coffers, according to a person familiar with the operation.
"As former prosecutors, we know that this conduct, if true, violates multiple laws," Lieu and Rice wrote in their letter to the FBI. "We respectfully request that you open investigations into whether or not Mr. Kushner and members of the Trump family violated federal campaign finance or other statutes."
American Made Media Consultants, which Kushner helped create in 2018, received $617 million from the Trump campaign to pay for ads and, in some cases, members of Trump's family, the source said.
Kushner picked Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, Vice President Mike Pence's nephew John Pence, and Trump campaign Chief Financial Officer Sean Dollman to serve on the board of the shell company, according to a person familiar with the creation of AMMC, who spoke with Insider. Insider was able to independently verify those details with other sources close to the Trump campaign.
A request for comment from the Trump campaign was not immediately returned Friday evening.
But in a previous statement to Insider, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said Lara Trump and John Pence did nothing wrong.
"Lara Trump and John Pence resigned from the AMMC board in October 2019 to focus solely on their campaign activities, however, there was never any ethical or legal reason why they could not serve on the board in the first place," Murtaugh said in a statement sent Thursday to Insider. "John and Lara were not compensated by AMMC for their service as board members."
Murtaugh later added that it was "false. No Trump family members were paid by AMMC."
American Made Media Consultants was used, in part, to pay a company run by former campaign manager Brad Parscale, who then used that money to pay Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, the person familiar with the operation told Insider.
An 'extension of the campaign'
The Department of Justice, of which the FBI is part, is empowered to investigate "knowing and willful" criminal violations of campaign finance laws.
As a civil law enforcement agency, the FEC may fine political committees and actors for campaign money violations. But even under the best of circumstances, the FEC could take months or even years to investigate and rule on complex complaints, such as that of Lieu and Rice.
And the FEC, of late, has been effectively crippled, only this week regaining the power to enforce and regulate federal campaign finance laws after not having enough commissioners to do so for 14 of the past 15 months.
After the six-member, bipartisan commission fell below a quorum of four commissioners in September 2019, it took Trump more than a year to nominate three new commissioners. The US Senate confirmed them — Republicans Allen Dickerson and Sean Cooksey and Democrat Shana Broussard — earlier this month.
An enforcement case backlog of about 400 cases awaits them.
Among those cases is one filed in July by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which accused the Trump campaign of using American Made Media Consultants to illegally disguise campaign spending.
Following Insider's reporting Friday, the Campaign Legal Center's Brendan Fischer said that it provides "additional evidence that AMMC functioned as a campaign-controlled pass-through to obscure over half of the Trump campaign's spending."
He added that "the deep involvement of Kushner and other senior Trump campaign officials in AMMC is important, because it further shows the Trump campaign did not have an arms-length relationship with AMMC — instead, AMMC was just an extension of the campaign."