When news broke Monday that federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed President Trump’s inauguration committee yesterday, only one man’s name came up, according to multiple news reports. His name is Imaad Zuberi, and his name also appears on a document tied to an inaugural event featuring foreign power brokers and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Trump ally who ran the House intelligence committee. The event is being probed by the Special Counsel’s Office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Zuberi is a venture capitalist from the Los Angeles area and a former major donor for President Obama. His firm Avenue Ventures gave $900,000 to Trump’s committee. The breakfast event, which also featured Trump’s first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, among its 60 or so guests, included representatives from countries across the world.
The event has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. The existence of that probe was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Special Counsel’s Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries.
Zuberi’s name appears on a document that shows a potential guest list for the breakfast that includes the names of foreign officials, some of whom were from Qatar and Kazakhstan. Zuberi is listed as a “source” for those officials on the list. Zuberi’s attorney said that Zuberi did not invite anybody to the breakfast.
Two other individuals with knowledge of the event said that organizers of the event had discussed the event with Zuberi in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.
A spokesperson for Zuberi said that he did not attend the event but showed up as it was ending to talk to people who were exiting the breakfast. He said Zuberi wanted to co-host the event but was told "no’"by the breakfast’s organizers.
The Daily Beast has previously reported that Zuberi had contact with Michael Cohen in 2016 and 2017. Sources familiar with the matter said Zuberi initially spoke with Cohen about his plans to attend Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and inquired about access to high-level events. Zuberi had been told that he would need to pay upward of $1 million to attend the events, where he would rub shoulders with senior administration officials including President-elect Trump himself.
Cohen told Zuberi that Cohen would be involved in the new administration's federal infrastructure spending plans, according to two sources with knowledge of the fund’s management. Proposals for that spending at the time ranged from $500 billion to $1 trillion, and Cohen used the fund as a vehicle to peddle Trump administration influence.
According to a report in The Intercept, Cohen asked Qatari government officials in late 2016 to chip in $1 million to the infrastructure fund in exchange for access to the Trump administration. That offer was apparently declined, but Cohen asked others for similar donations, according to those sources, and spoke with Zuberi about the fund.
Zuberi spoke with Cohen before and after the inauguration about potential business opportunities the two could embark upon during a Trump administration, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversations. According to those sources, Cohen asked Zuberi to be included as a lawyer on a Manhattan real estate project. One individual said that deal never went forward.
A spokesperson for Zuberi reached out to The Daily Beast with the following statement for a prior story:
“Cohen never said he would be involved in government nor managing any infrastructure fund, nor did Cohen solicit Zuberi for any such hypothetical fund. Imaad had three brief conversations with Cohen, two of them very brief. Zuberi never donated to such a fund and no such fund has ever existed, even to this day.”
Nunes, for his part, declined to respond to requests to comment for that story. But after it was published, he wrote on Twitter, “Fakenews goes up in flames this week. They really think American people are pawns in their march towards socialism.”