NY Says Trump Foundation Misused Charitable Funds

New York Attorney General Barbara underwood notes that the Trump Organization made at least five $100,000 grants to groups in Iowa in the days immediately before the Feb. 1, 2016, Iowa caucuses.

MANHATTAN (CN) – Ramping up their criminal case against the Trump Foundation, New York prosecutors said new evidence shows President Donald Trump used foundation money during his 2016 presidential run — a violation of the bar against charities getting involved in political campaigns.

New York Attorney General Letitia James disclosed the evidence in a filing late Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court, saying Trump urged supporters at his rallies to donate to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and then gave his campaign total control over the disbursement of the donations, from choosing the recipients to the amounts and timing of the grants. 

“This arrangement not only violated New York law, but also ran afoul of federal campaign finance law, turning a charity fundraiser into a campaign fundraiser and campaign rallies into opportunities for the candidate to dole out money the public had donated to a charity,” James wrote in a 19-page brief.

Seeking $2.8 million in restitution, plus $5.6 million in penalties, James said Trump’s charity “broke some of the most basic laws that apply to private foundations.”

“They failed to meet as a board, oversee grant-making, or implement policies to protect the charity’s assets from misuse,” the filing states. “In this vacuum of oversight and diligence, Mr. Trump caused the Foundation to enter repeatedly into self-dealing transactions and to coordinate unlawfully with his presidential campaign.”

In addition to the Trump Foundation, the president’s three eldest children, Donald Trump, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, are named as respondents.

The filing comes in response to a submission from the foundation’s lawyers, who have argued that the lawsuit against the charity is both flimsy and politically motivated.

Among the state’s evidence of illicit coordination between Trump campaign officials and the foundation, James says deposition testimony from longtime Trump accountant Allen Weisselberg corroborates email correspondences with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Weisselberg had been chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and was granted immunity last August for his cooperation pertaining to the investigation in the Southern District of New York of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. 

Cohen mentioned Weisselberg several times in his testimony last month before the House Oversight Committee, linking the accountant to participation in hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, misleading Trump lenders and campaign-finance violations.

In addition to damages, James seeks an order barring President Trump from serving as the fiduciary of any charitable corporation operating in New York for 10 years, as well as a one-year bar for each of the three younger Trumps, who are subject to having their bar lifted upon adequate training.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve last December amid the ongoing lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court that accuses it of being “little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization.”

The suit alleges that the Trumps used the charity’s funds to pay off the legal obligations of entities he controlled, to promote Trump hotels, to purchase personal items, and to support his presidential election campaign.

The foundation distributed $1.7 million of its remaining funds to nonprofit organizations.

Trump Foundation attorneys at Futerfas Law did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

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