New York Attorney General Sues Trump and His Children for Misuse of Charitable Foundation

Trump allegedly used his nonprofit for political and personal purposes.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and his three oldest adult children, accusing the president and his family of misusing Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, in a “pattern of illegal conduct.” According to the lawsuit—which asks Trump to pay a $2.8 million fine, shut down the charity, and be banned from running another charity for 10 years—that illegal conduct included “improper and extensive political activity [and] repeated and willful self-dealing transactions.” Underwood also claimed the Trumps, as members of the charity’s board, failed to “implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

A major part of Underwood’s lawsuit is an accusation that the president allowed his political campaign to control the distribution of $2.8 million he had raised at a January 2016 fundraiser for veterans. Trump held the fundraiser instead of participating in the final GOP presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses. 

Underwood included copies of internal Trump Organization emails showing that then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was trying to manage high-profile donations before voters went to the caucuses.

https://twitter.com/NewYorkStateAG/status/1007273444977922050

If the money was used in an effort to influence the election, that would not only be a possible violation of state and federal law; it would also be a potential campaign finance violation. In a series of tweets about the case, Underwood said she sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service, which regulates nonprofits, and the Federal Election Commission, asking them to consider investigating the charity.

Trump reacted angrily to the lawsuit, accusing Underwood of cooking up a fake political scandal.

Aside from the allegations about using the charity for political purposes, Underwood charges that Trump used the nonprofit to benefit his own businesses on at least five occasions, making donations or payments that arguably solved a problem for the for-profit side of the Trump empire. One cited example was the payment of $100,000 to a charity in Florida, which the elder Trump had agreed to donate to settle a dispute with the town of Palm Beach over zoning rules.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate