President Donald Trump and his three eldest children are named in a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president's charity foundation.
According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit accuses the president of using the charity for personal reasons, including “to pay off his businesses’ creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events.”
In the suit, filed Thursday morning, attorney general Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.
Underwood also asks that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States.
While acknowledging that Trump has already paid $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016, Underwood asked that the president pay millions more:
She said a 20-month state investigation found that Trump had repeatedly violated laws that set the ground rules for tax-exempt foundations — most importantly, that their money is meant to serve the public good, and not to provide private benefits to their founders.
“This resulted in multiple violations of state and federal law,” Underwood wrote in the legal complaint.
Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization immediately responded to the Post’s request for comment.
Underwood provided no new comments but had issued a written statement:
“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in the statement.
Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump are also named in the lawsuit due to their status as board members of the foundation for years.
Underwood noted that, under the law, board members are to hold nonprofit leaders to account, examining spending to ensure the leader is not misusing funds – but in this case, Trump’s adult children were doing no such thing.
“The Foundation’s directors failed to meet basic fiduciary duties and abdicated all responsibility for ensuring that the Foundation’s assets were used in compliance with the law,” Underwood wrote.
With no outside oversight over Trump’s use of foundation funds, Underwood said, the future president had repeatedly used his charity’s money to help his businesses, and himself.
Grievances listed in the lawsuit include the following:
In a 2007 settlement with Palm Beach over code violations at Mar-A-Lago, Trump agreed to donate $100,000 to a charity; the funds came not from his business but the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
In 2012, one of Trump’s golf clubs agreed to pay a $158,000 settlement to a man who had been denied a $1 million hole-in-one prize during one of the club’s tournaments; Trump’s charity paid the settlement.
Lesser infractions include: “The charity paid $5,000 to put an ad for Trump hotels in the program for a charity gala. It paid $32,000 to satisfy an obligation of a Trump company that manages a New York estate. It paid $10,000 to buy a portrait of Trump, which was later found hanging in the sports bar at Trump’s Doral golf resort.”
After New York began investigating the president’s charity, he repaid the money with interest, the Post reported.
Underwood also took aim at the foundation’s involvement with Trump’s 2016 election campaign:
In 2016, Trump sought to excuse his foundation’s actions in a letter to the New York attorney general, saying that the Iowa fundraiser was a charity event. “This statement was false,” Underwood wrote, “because, in reality, the Fundraiser was a Trump Campaign event in which the Foundation participated.”
She wrote that Trump had repeatedly signed charity documents saying that nonprofits like his were not allowed to become involved in political campaigns. “Mr. Trump’s wrongful use of the Foundation to benefit his Campaign was willful and knowing,” she wrote.
Trump responded to the news Thursday morning via Twitter, saying he would not settle the case: