In this June 9, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

New York sues Trump over use of charitable foundation

NY attorney general alleges president used foundation’s money to settle his business disputes

New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Donald Trump of illegally using money from his charitable foundation to settle disputes involving his business empire and to burnish his image during his run for the White House.

The president blasted the case as politically motivated. The lawsuit seeks $2.8 million in restitution and the dissolution of the foundation.

The two-year investigation detailed a closely co-ordinated effort between Trump’s campaign and the foundation to promote his political career by giving out big grants of other’s people money to veterans organizations during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of 2016, the suit says.

“The foundation’s grants made Mr. Trump and the campaign look charitable and increased the candidate’s profile to Republican primary voters and among important constituent groups,” Democratic Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s lawsuit said.

It accused the foundation of “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and wilful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations.”

In a couple of tweets, Trump called the case “ridiculous.”

“I won’t settle this case!” he wrote.

READ MORE: Robert De Niro apologizes to Canadians for Trump’s recent comments

The 31-year-old foundation said that it has given more than $19 million to charitable causes while keeping expenses minimal, and that Trump and his companies have contributed more than $8 million.

It already announced its intention to dissolve more than a year ago, the charity added in a statement.

“This is politics at its very worst,” the statement said, noting that the former New York attorney general who began the investigation, Democrat Eric Schneiderman, was a vocal Trump opponent.

Schneiderman resigned last month after he was accused of physically abusing women he dated; he denied the allegations. Trump’s tweets also pointed to Schneiderman’s resignation.

Schneiderman started investigating the charity and ordered it to stop fundraising in New York in 2016, after The Washington Post reported that the foundation’s spending personally benefited the presidential candidate.

Some of those expenditures, uncovered by The Post, were cited in the lawsuit, including a $100,000 payment to settle legal claims against Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida; $158,000 to resolve a suit over a prize for a hole-in-one contest at Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York; and $10,000 to buy a 6-foot (1.8-meter) portrait of Trump at a charity auction.

After New York’s attorney general began investigating, Trump’s business empire reimbursed the foundation for the money spent to settle the business disputes. And the painting, which was hanging at a Trump golf club in the Miami area, was returned to the foundation.

Underwood, a career government lawyer who was appointed after Schneiderman’s resignation and has said she doesn’t intend to run for election, said she has referred her findings to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action.

In exchange for their tax-exempt status, charities are required to follow certain rules, among them a strict prohibition against getting involved in political campaigns.

The Trump Foundation’s mission says its funds are to be used “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes,” either directly or through other organizations, according to the lawsuit.

In keeping with federal tax rules, the charity’s incorporation documents say none of its resources can directly or indirectly go to the benefit its directors or officers and none of its activities can benefit any political candidate or campaign.

Trump’s foundation was “co-opted” by his presidential campaign, particularly in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, the lawsuit says.

Spurning a Republican candidates’ debate on Jan. 28, 2016 — four days before the caucuses — Trump instead participated in a televised rally and fundraiser for veterans organizations.

The event raised approximately $5.6 million, about $2.8 million of which went to the Trump Foundation; the rest was given directly by donors to veterans groups, the lawsuit says.

Then the foundation “ceded control” over the money to campaign staff members, the suit says.

“Is there any way we can make some disbursements this week while in Iowa?” then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski wrote in an email to the chief financial officer of Trump’s business, the Trump Organization.

Lewandowski did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The foundation went on to make five grants of $100,000 before the caucuses, with Trump presenting giant checks at a series of campaign rallies, to applause and praise from such figures as Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who was a force in GOP politics.

“How often do you see a presidential candidate giving money away instead of taking it?” the younger Falwell told the crowd at a Trump rally.

The oversized checks bore Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan along with the foundation’s address.

Trump didn’t give any money personally at the time, but several months later, after media pressure, followed through on a pledge to donate $1 million.

Underwood’s suit was filed the same day the Justice Department’s inspector general was due to release a report on former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man, 24, charged with nine sexual offences in Abbotsford and Mission

Alleged victim, who he met online, is under the age of 16

Mission filmmaker tackles topic of youth and the social media epidemic

Kim Laureen teams up with her daughter to create documentary film Selfless

Mission to take a closer look at clothing donation bins

Recent deaths around the country have caused some communities to ban the bins for safety concerns

Live demos and stunt shows part of Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Annual event returns to Tradex in Abbotsford from Jan. 18 to 20

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Rookie Demko backstops Canucks to 4-3 win over Sabres

Young Vancouver goalie makes 36 saves to turn away Buffalo

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

UPDATE: Injured firefighter in stable condition

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Book a ride on a driverless shuttle in Surrey or Vancouver

Automated vehicle demos are being offered, as the two cities plan pilot projects with the shuttles

Heavy snowfall expected on the Coquihalla

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway, from Hope to Merritt

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

Missing man from Crowsnest Pass could be in Lower Mainland

58-year-old Stuart David Duff was last seen on Jan. 6, 2019.

Most Read