The New York attorney general filed suit Thursday against President Trump, his children, and their charitable foundation for violating campaign finance law, self-dealing and coordinating with the presidential campaign.
Attorney general Barbara Underwood, who succeeded Eric Schneiderman after he was accused of sexual assault just over one month ago, is seeking to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, garner restitution from the family, and prevent Trump from serving as an officer to any charity for ten years. The suit also calls for a one year ban on Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. serving on the board of any charity in New York state for one year.
“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood told the New York Times. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the foundation accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”
The attorney general has also reportedly contacted the IRS and the Federal Election Commission to recommend possible further action against the foundation.
The suit accuses Trump and his children of using the foundation to curry political favor and settle legal claims against his businesses. The suit also claims Trump and his family engaged in “at least five self-dealing transactions,” including the purchase of a $10,000 self portrait of the president.
Trump settled a legal claim in 2007 against his Mar-a-Lago resort via a $100,000 payment to a fellow charity, the Fisher House Foundation. Again in 2012, Trump settled a claim, brought against the Trump National Golf Club by a man who never received his prize for a hole-in-one, by transferring $158,000 from his charity to one run by claimant.
In addition to the various business-related violations, the foundation may have violated campaign finance law by raising money during a 2016 political fundraiser for the Trump campaign in Iowa.
Following the event, which raised $2.8 million, the foundation “ceded control over the charitable funds it raised to senior Trump campaign staff, who dictated the manner in which the foundation would disburse those proceeds, directing the timing, amounts and recipients of the grants,” according to the complaint.
Less than a month after the fundraiser, Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski conversed with an official at the foundation over email about how the funds should be dispersed, which, according to the complaint, constituted “an improper in-kind contribution of no less than $2.823 million to the campaign.”