A massive corruption probe into US President Donald Trump’s $A150 million inauguration is demanding a raft of financial records to show how the money was raised and spent.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday said the investigation was part of “a hysteria” over the fact he is president.
The probe is the latest in a series of criminal inquiries into Mr Trump’s campaign and presidency, but Ms Sanders argued it was in no way linked to him or the White House.
“I think the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president,” Ms Sanders told CNN. “The common thread is that there is so much hatred out there that they will look for anything to try to create and tie problems to this president.
“The fact that those things have taken place literally have absolutely nothing to do with the President.”
She later told reporters the probe “has nothing to do with the White House”, and Americans were more interested in “what the path forward looks like”.
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether donors to Mr Trump’s inaugural committee made contributions in exchange for political favours — a potential violation of federal corruption laws.
On Monday, they issued a subpoena requesting all information related to the committee’s donors, vendors and contractors, according to US news outlets who viewed the request.
The New York prosecutors demanded to see the inaugural committee’s bank accounts and hear about any “benefits” donors received after making contributions.
The inquiry will also examine whether the inauguration misspent the record $US107 million ($A147 million) it raised for celebratory events to welcome the new president.
The New York Times reported late last year that federal prosecutors were examining whether anyone from Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries made illegal payments to the committee and a pro-Trump super political action committee. Foreign contributions to inaugural funds and PACs are prohibited under federal law.
Spokeswoman Kristin Celauro said the committee had received the subpoena and was reviewing it. “It is our intention to co-operate with the inquiry,” she said.
Committee head Tom Barrack confirmed he was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2017 but said he was not a target of the Russia investigation.
The investigation places fresh legal pressure on a White House already threatened by multiple investigations, including Mr Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election.
The subpoena suggests there may be suspicions of fraud and money laundering.
One donor it looks at is venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, and his Los Angeles company Avenue Ventures, which donated $US900,000 to the inauguration, according to the Washington Post.
Presidential inaugurations open the door for businesses and lobbyists seeking to gain access to the White House to show their support for the new leader by funding gala balls, concerts and other activities during the week of the inauguration.
Mr Trump’s swearing-in caused controversy at the time because of an argument over crowd size, with then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisting the gathering was larger than it clearly was — leading to the coining of the phrase “alternative facts” by White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway.
But the new investigation could have far more serious consequences.
Questions have lingered for two years over whether the Trump Inaugural Committee’s record fund involved illegal donations from foreigners, sweetheart deals for contractors and possible kickbacks.
The committee board comprised several billionaire Trump donors. Deputy chairman Rick Gates, who managed the operation, has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and false statements in the Russia investigation as part of a co-operation deal.
According to reports last year, Mr Mueller has taken an interest in the attendance at the inauguration and exclusive inaugural events of individuals with ties to the Russian government.