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

Stelly’s sidewalk gets green light

Federal funding brings project to fruition

Witnesses sought for alleged drunk driver crash in Sidney

Crash happened June 16 on East Saanich Rd. and Canora Dr.

Fake crash warns students about real consequences

Saanich Peninsula emergency crews warn against distracted driving

An upstart ferry company might be a Malahat alternative

A new ferry service might alleviate Malahat congestion. Dogwood Ferries is a… Continue reading

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

New Jersey forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

Vancouver’s Sedin brothers share King Clancy Award for humanitarian efforts

GoFundMe page launched for families of missing Vancouver Island fishermen

Search for three men whose vessel capsized near Tofino on June 15 continues.

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

Police look for driver of blue Jeep who may have helped at fatal crash

A 19-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Delta on June 2

Most Read