He gave to both the Trump inauguration and Clinton campaign and now is in the sights of federal investigators
The 2017 Donald Trump inaugural committee is still under scrutiny from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, but this time investigators are asking for records on a specific donor to the committee, according to a report from ABC News.
A subpoena from the attorney’s office reportedly seeks information about the committee’s dealings with Imaad Zuberi, a California venture capitalist and former Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fundraiser, and his firm Avenue Ventures, which gave $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.
The committee took in a record-breaking $107 million, more than double that of President Obama’s first inaugural committee, which itself was record-breaking at the time. Federal investigators are reportedly looking into whether the committee took contributions from foreign nationals, which is prohibited under federal law. The recent subpoena also asks for documents related to any contributions to the committee that could have been made by foreign nationals.
A spokesperson for Zuberi told the Washington Post, “There is no connection of any other individual or entity, and for sure not a foreign one. He gave his own money.”
Zuberi is an American citizen, but he has apparent connections to foreign governments. In 2014, he took in $4.5 million — and another $2 million to his company — from the Sri Lankan government for an influence and foreign lobbying operation, according to a 2015 report from Foreign Policy. He was late to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but did not face penalties as FARA wasn’t strictly enforced at the time.
Before he became one of Trump’s biggest financial supporters, Zuberi was a major Democratic donor and bundler. Among a series of Democratic contributions in 2016, Zuberi delivered $615,000 to Hillary Clinton’s joint fundraising committee, Hillary Victory Fund and reportedly contributed between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He gave $102,135 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008 and bundled $500,000 for Obama in 2012.
All told, Zuberi and his wife Asifa have given more than $2.2 million to federal candidates and groups since 2004, with a majority of it — $1.5 million — going to Democratic causes, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
According to internal Democratic memos released by Wikileaks, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta met with Zuberi in September 2015 to thank him for his support. Months prior, Clinton campaign officials grappled with whether they should allow foreign agents to raise money for Clinton’s campaign, according to emails released by Wikileaks.
Zuberi’s fundraising efforts sharply reversed course following the 2016 election. Though Zuberi continued to give to Democratic candidates during the 2018 election cycle, he gave $225,000 to Trump’s joint fundraising committee Trump Victory and more than $100,000 to both the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee, along with his company’s massive inaugural committee contribution.
As he began to financially support Trump, Zuberi also worked his way into the president-elect’s circle. He reportedly visited Trump tower in December 2016, meeting with incoming-national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chief Steve Bannon. He met with Qatari officials the next day, then visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates a few days later, according to the Washington Post’s analysis of Zuberi’s Facebook posts.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly questioned witnesses last year about contributions from donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to ABC News.
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