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

Friends, family remember Dan Sealey, stepson of Minister of Agriculture, in private gathering

Lana Popham confirmed Sealey died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month at age 23

PHOTOS: Uptown lights up the holiday season

Annual event drew crowd of all ages for parade and Christmas tree lighting

New figures show City of Victoria spent $30,000 to remove Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Mommy’s Inside Voice: A little piece of you

Mommy’s Inside Voice is a biweekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three

High school graduation rates on the rise in Greater Victoria

High school completion up from 71 to 86.8 per cent over 10 years

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 16 to 18

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

Most Read