Trump accused of misusing charitable foundation
New York’s attorney general sued President Donald Trump and his foundation Thursday, accusing him of illegally using the charity’s money to settle disputes involving his business empire and to boost his political fortunes during his run for the White House.
The president called the case “ridiculous.’’
The lawsuit against Trump and the foundation directors _ his children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka _ seeks $2.8 million in restitution, additional unspecified penalties and the dissolution of the foundation, which Trump had already pledged to dismantle.
The attorney general’s office detailed what it said was a closely co-ordinated effort by Trump’s campaign and the foundation to burnish his political image 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 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.’’
Underwood referred her findings to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action. IRS and FEC representatives declined to comment.
The Trump Foundation’s mission says its funds are to be used “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes,’’ according to the lawsuit.
In exchange for tax-exempt status, charities are required to follow rules that include a strict prohibition against involvement in political campaigns.
In tweets, Trump vowed: “I won’t settle this case!’’
He said former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who started the investigation, “never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case’’ before resigning last month after being accused of physically abusing women he dated. Schneiderman has denied the allegations.
Trump’s foundation called the case “politics at its very worst,’’ noting that Schneiderman, a Democrat, was a vocal Trump opponent. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, called Underwood “outrageously biased.’’ The 31-yearold 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.
Underwood is a career government lawyer who was appointed after Schneiderman’s resignation. She has said she doesn’t intend to run for election.
Donald Trump speaks behind a DonaldTrumpforVets.com sign at a fundraising event in Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake University during Trump’s campaign for president. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Trump of illegally using his charitable foundation to pay legal settlements related to his golf clubs and to bolster his presidential campaign.