By VIVIAN SALAMA & LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. – Donald Trump cannot move ahead with his plan to dismantle his charitable foundation because state prosecutors are probing whether the president-elect personally benefited from its spending, the New York attorney general’s office said Tuesday.
“The Trump foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The statement came after Trump announced that he wanted to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, part of what his presidential transition team says is an effort to erase any potential conflicts of interest before he takes office Jan. 20.
But the foundation’s inner workings have been the subject of Schneiderman’s investigation for months and could remain a thorny issue for Trump’s incoming administration. Democrats nationally have said they are ready to raise any legal or ethical issues from Trump’s global business empire during his presidency.
Trump’s charity has admitted that it violated IRS regulations barring it from using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.
The admissions by the Donald J. Trump Foundation were in a 2015 tax filing made public after a presidential election in which it was revealed that Trump has used the charity to settle lawsuits, make a $25,000 political contribution and purchase items, such as a painting of himself, that was displayed at one of his properties.
The 2015 tax filing was posted on the nonprofit monitoring website GuideStar on Nov. 18 by someone using an email address from the foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, said GuideStar spokeswoman Jackie Enterline Fekeci.
In the tax filing, the foundation acknowledged that it used money or assets in violation of the regulations not only during 2015, but in prior years. But the tax filing doesn’t provide details on the violations.
Schneiderman, a Democrat, launched his investigation into the charity after reporting by The Washington Post drew attention to some of the foundation’s purchases.
Trump asserted on Twitter late Monday that his foundation was run efficiently.
“The DJT Foundation, unlike most foundations, never paid fees, rent, salaries or any expenses,” the president-elect tweeted. “100% of the money goes to wonderful charities.”
It was the latest of several tweets from Trump, who is spending the holiday week at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Earlier Monday, Trump questioned the effectiveness of the United Nations, saying it’s just a club for people to “have a good time,” after the U.N. Security Council voted last week to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem,
And on Friday, Trump warned, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he takes office.
The decision by the Obama administration to abstain from Friday’s U.N. vote brushed aside Trump’s demands that the U.S. exercise its veto and provided a climax to years of icy relations with Israel’s leadership.
That was only one subject Trump tackled on Twitter on Monday. In an evening post, he wrote that he believes his election as president has boosted the economy.
“The world was gloomy before I won — there was no hope,” he tweeted. “Now, the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars.”
Markets are up since Trump won the general election, although not by that much. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is up about 6 percent since Election Day, while the Dow has risen more than 8 percent.
As for holiday spending, auditing and accounting firm Deloitte projected in September that total 2016 holiday sales were expected to exceed $1 trillion, representing a 3.6 percent to 4.0 percent increase in holiday sales from November through January. But that can’t be credited to Trump because the projection came before the election.