The Real Deal New York

AG Underwood sues Trump Foundation, Trump family members for “persistent illegal conduct”

Allegations include self-dealing and using charitable funds for political purposes
June 14, 2018 12:37PM

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and President Donald Trump (Credit: Scott Olson via Getty Images)

New York state’s new attorney general Barbara Underwood sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Friday, including President Donald Trump and his three oldest children, alleging self-dealing, unlawful political coordination and other illegal practices.

Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the president’s charitable organization and also asked that the court require the foundation to pay $2.8 million in penalties and donate its remaining account balance of $1 million to charities.

According the attorney general’s court filings, the president used his foundation’s funds to pay of his personal legal fees, to promote his business and to make personal purchases, including a $10,000 portrait. The fund was illegally used to promote Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency, Underwood alleged, violating both state and federal law. The petition cites emails from then-campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski indicating the foundation had ceded control of its fund to the Trump campaign. “Is there anyway we can make some disbursements this week in Iowa,” Lewandoski emailed Trump Foundation treasurer Allen Wieselberg from the campaign trail. “Specifically on Saturday.”

“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 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 Trump Foundation released a statement on Thursday saying it had donated more than $19 million to charitable causes. A spokesperson called Underwood’s suit a “political attack.”

The New York Attorney General’s office, then under the leadership of Eric Schneiderman, initiated the probe into the Trump Foundation’s activities. That office previously sued Trump alleging his Trump University real estate education enterprise defrauded students. Trump later settled that suit and others brought by former students for $25 million.

If Underwood’s suit is successful, the Trumps would also be banned from serving on the boards of charities in New York. [WaPo] — Will Parker