After conducting an extensive investigation, New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood has sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation — including its directors President Donald Trump and his children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump — for "extensive and persistent violations of state and federal law," seeking restitution of £2 million plus penalties.
The lawsuit aims to dissolve the foundation and bar Donald Trump (whose 72nd birthday is today) and the board of directors from directing any other New York charity "in light of misconduct and total lack of oversight," according to a petition the AG office posted online.
"The Trump Foundation was little more than a chequebook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality," Underwood said in a statement. "This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets."
The petition alleges a "pattern of persistent illegal conduct" that includes unlawful coordination with Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, transactions that benefit Trump's personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations of nonprofit foundations. Trump allegedly used charitable assets from the foundation to pay his legal fees, promote his hotels and other businesses, and buy personal things. This includes a £70,000 payment to settle legal claims against Mar-A-Lago, £110,000 to settle legal claims against Trump National Golf Club, and £7,000 for a painting of Donald Trump displayed at the Trump National Doral, a hotel in Miami.
The foundation also allegedly used funds it raised from the public to help Trump's campaign for president. "In violation of state and federal law, senior Trump campaign staff, including campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, dictated the timing, amounts, and recipients of grants by the Foundation to nonprofits," according to Underwood.
She posted an example of Lewandowski's emails in which he was allegedly doing just that.
The AG's office is sending referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for further investigation and legal action.
Trump responded to the lawsuit on Twitter, calling Democrats "sleazy" and vowing he will not settle.
The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2018
....Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2018
In 2016, Trump — who boasted about how he "doesn't settle cases" — settled his Trump University fraud lawsuit for £18 million. The suit, which claimed Trump University defrauded students, was also filed by the New York AG's office.