Donald Trump Jr. has denied using nonprofit funds meant for his father’s inauguration in 2017 to enrich the Trump family, in a deposition obtained by DailyMail.com.
Washington D.C. AG Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against the Trump Inaugural Committee and the Trump Organization in January 2020 for misusing over $1million in nonprofit funds.
The lawsuit alleges that the committee coordinated with the Trump family to ‘grossly overpay’ for event space in the Trump International Hotel and improperly used the funds to throw a private party for the Trumps costing several hundred thousand dollars.
The filing identified Don Jr.’s assistant as the point of contact on a block of hotel rooms for nearly $50,000 and says his ‘close friend’ provided the ‘authorizing signature.’
The key witness in the lawsuit is Melania’s former best friend and inaugural event planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who claims she raised concerns about pricing with Donald Trump, Ivanka and Rick Gates, a top campaign official at the time.
But Don Jr. says in the deposition, ‘I had no involvement with her.’
‘I know of her. I think I’ve met her but I don’t know her,’ Don Jr. said of the event planner.
Don Jr. was deposed on February 11 by the attorney general who claims the committee ‘blatantly and unlawfully abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family.’
Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is probing Donald Trump’s inaugural committee payments to his hotel. His office interviewed Donald Trump Jr. on February 11
Melania’s former best friend and aide Stephanie Winston Wolkoff (left) claims she raised concerns about pricing with Donald Trump, Ivanka and Rick Gates, a top campaign official at the time
The committee and Trump entities were sued in January 2020 over allegations it had spent more than $1million to book a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel for his inauguration, as part of a scheme to ‘grossly overpay’ for party space and enrich the president’s own family in the process.
‘The evidence is clear,’ Racine said. ‘The Trump business and the Trump family used the not-for-profit to profit themselves.
The suit claims Wolkoff had documented her warning in an email to Gates and Ivanka in December 2016. Wolkoff is the author of tell-all book Melania and Me
‘That’s why the Presidential Inauguration Commission paid so much money for rooms and event space that were far above market rate during the inauguration commission, and that’s why we just amended our complaint to include that Donald Trump Jr.’s good friend essentially had a free set of rooms for a period of time during the inauguration for no good not-for-profit purpose.’
Don Jr. and the Trump Organization have denied abusing nonprofit funds.
Don Jr’s deposition raised ‘further questions’ about a $49,359 contract that witnesses testified the Trump organization reached for a block of rooms at the Lowe’s Madison hotel just blocks north of the White House in connection with the inauguration, according to a filing.
The bill was presented to Donald Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), a nonprofit entity that oversaw inaugural activities.
Although the PIC picked up the tab, Don Jr. wasn’t able to identify any donors for the committee who actually used the rooms.
In his deposition Don Jr. said he doesn’t recall attending any planning meetings for the inauguration and appeared to remember very little about the night, comparing the event his wedding day.
‘You hear a little bit here and there, but again, I wasn’t involved enough,’ he said. ‘ It wasn’t something that was too big on my list of priorities given what I had to deal with.’
He went on to say event planning ‘is not really my thing.’
‘It’s not my job description, it’s not what I do,’ he added.
Don Jr. also said he could ‘not recall’ having discussions about PIC finances.
‘I know of her. I think I’ve met her but I don’t know her,’ Don Jr. said of Wolkoff in the deposition obtained by DailyMail.com. ‘If she was in this room I’m not sure I would recognize her’
In his deposition Don Jr. said he doesn’t recall attending any planning meetings for the inauguration. ‘You hear a little bit here and there, but again, I wasn’t involved enough,’ he said. ‘ It wasn’t something that was too big on my list of priorities given what I had to deal with’
Ivanka Trump was subpoenaed in October along with other members of Trump’s camp including First Lady Melania, Gates, and investor Thomas J. Barrack Jr.
Barrack Jr. was deposed on November 17.
The suit claims Wolkoff had also documented her warning in an email to Gates and Ivanka in December 2016.
Wolkoff is the author of tell-all book Melania and Me.
‘Ms Wolkoff asked them to ”please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge that the locations were also gifted and costs underwritten to lower rental fees’,” the suit states.
‘The PIC and the Trump Hotel ignored these warnings and went ahead with the improper payments at issue in this case.’
‘When asked about the names associated with the rooms and the invoice, Mr. Trump was unable to testify if any of them donated to the [inaugural committee]. Instead, the names were associated with the campaign or with the Trump family,’ according to the filing.
‘For example, Mr. Trump testified that one individual was a friend from college, one was a Trump family driver, another was a New York socialite from Real Housewives of New York who is also a Trump family friend,’ it said.
That Real Housewife was revealed as Jill Zarin in the deposition.
The Trump inaugural committee hired the Trump International Hotel D.C.’s facilities, paying an inflated amount for the ballroom and improperly throwing a private party for Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, the D.C. attorney general alleges
The lavish affair kicked off the Trump administration in 2017, with events at the Trump Hotel
The filing identifies Don Jr.’s assistant Lindsay Santoro as the point of contact on the block of rooms, and says his ‘close friend’ of Trump Jr. Gentry Beach provided the ‘authorizing signature.’
The two men are pictured together wearing Tuxedos at a fundraiser for Operation Smile in 2006. Beach is a stock trader who became a fundraiser for the Trump campaign and who went to college with Don Jr.
At the time of the lawsuit, Racine said the committee is required by law to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not personal benefit.
‘In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business,’ he said in January.
It was the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves – part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he was president.