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

More Central Okanagan firefighters help out around B.C.

Joe Rich and other regional district firefighters are lending a hand

Transit improvements underway in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood

The final phase of work on transit exchange includes pushing Shepherd Road out to Rutland Road North

Kelowna Ribfest launch faces animal rights protest

Animal advocates draw attention to abuse suffered by factory farm pigs

UPDATE: Crews still working to contain the wildfire north of Okanagan Connector

Update: Aug. 15 9:23 p.m. The Gottfriedsen Mountain wildfire, which was sparked… Continue reading

New urban winery approved by West Kelowna Council

The new winery will be located in the industrial area

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

Search for mudslide victim becomes recovery mission

Valerie Morris was swept away by a mudslide on Highway 99 near Cache Creek on August 11.

Osland to make LPGA Tour debut

Kelowna’s Megan Osland has earned an exemption into next week’s CP Women’s Open in Regina.

Snowy Mountain fire now held

The Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos remains at 13,359 hectares in size

Shamrocks post split at Westerns

Senior C lacrosse championships

Tigers deal out awards

McIntosh marvellous minding net for MVP

Woman in custody after topless crane climb near Toronto waterfront

Toronto police have apprehend a woman who climbed crane cab near waterfront

A glimpse behind the fire lines

A Keremeos volunteer firefighter talks about what it was like to patrol the Snowy Mountain fire

‘Hot and dirty work:’ Commander describes fighting massive Ontario wildfire

Ontario has seen more than 1,000 forest fires so far this year, compared to 561 in all of 2017.

Most Read