The New York Attorney General has sued Donald Trump, the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump on the grounds that they took advantage of their positions within the Trump Foundation and acted on their own interests instead of the charity's.
In the suit filed Thursday, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood argues that the president and those three adult children have been acting illegally to push forward their political careers and violating New York State law for more than a decade within a charity already fraught with controversy. As such, they engaged in “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct,” according to the suit. The AG also sent a referral for a criminal case to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission outlining potential violations of federal criminal law.
“For more than a decade, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State Charities,” the lawsuit reads. “This pattern of illegal conduct by the Foundation and its board members includes improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”
New York is seeking $2.8 million, along with penalties, in the lawsuit. The suit also moves to ban Trump from serving as a director of any New York nonprofit for 10 years and to similarly ban Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump for one year each, according to a press release from the attorney general.
“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 the press release. “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.”
As additional documentation in support of its lawsuit, Underwood included email exchanges that show the Trump campaign staff dictating recipients of the Trump Foundation grants with explicit approval from Trump himself — a move that bolsters the Attorney General’s claims that Trump and his organization were acting illegally.
In response to the lawsuit, President Trump took to his favorite social medium to comment on the case.
It’s true that this isn’t the first time Trump’s nonprofit has been embroiled in legal troubles, though. Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a “Notice of Violation” letter in October 2016 and ordered the foundation to “immediately cease soliciting contributions” after news that President Trump may have misused money meant for the charity.
Shortly before taking office, Trump resigned from every position he held at the Trump Organization, and handed over full charge of the company to Donald Jr. and Eric. But on Jan. 11, he refused to sell his ownership stake of the organizations, raising concerns that he wasn’t truly free of conflicts of interest.
Read the full complaint below:
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his daughter Ivanka to speak during a visit to H&K Equipment Company in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, January 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)