Trump Foundation Agrees to Shut Down Amid Accusations of ‘Shocking’ Illegality

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump defended his charity and called the lawsuit a political witch hunt

What to Know

  • The New York Attorney General's Office has secured a stipulation that will dissolve the Trump Foundation under court supervision
  • The attorney general's office sued the Trump Foundation in June, claiming the foundation misused millions of dollars
  • The foundation will only be able to direct its charitable assets into "reputable organizations" approved by the attorney general's office

President Donald Trump's charitable foundation reached a deal Tuesday to go out of business, even as Trump continues to fight allegations he misused its assets to resolve business disputes and boost his run for the White House.

New York's attorney general and lawyers for the Trump Foundation agreed on a court-supervised process for shutting down the charity and distributing about $1.7 million in remaining assets to other nonprofit groups.

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The agreement resolved one part of the legal drama surrounding Trump, whose campaign, transition, inauguration and real estate empire are all under investigation.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood's lawsuit alleging Trump and his family illegally operated the foundation as an extension of his businesses and his presidential campaign will continue.

The lawsuit, filed in June, seeks $2.8 million in restitution and a 10-year ban on Trump and his three eldest children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — from serving on the boards of other New York State-based charities.

In a statement Tuesday, Underwood cited "a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more."

"This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests," she said.

Trump's lawyers previously argued that several impermissible donations by the foundation were due to clerical errors and were all corrected when brought to the attention of foundation officials. The foundation had previously admitted to violating IRS regulations barring it from using its assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies and substantial contributors to the foundation.

Trump had long pledged to dissolve the foundation and donate its funds to charity, but his lawyers said they were thwarted by the attorney general's office, which wanted oversight over the process. Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas said the three-decade-old foundation has been looking to fold since Trump got elected in 2016.

Futerfas said that the attorney general's office was giving a misleading account of what led to the charity's dissolution in a "further attempt to politicize this matter" and that the state's resistance was "depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7 million."

He said the foundation has distributed approximately $19 million over the past decade, including $8.25 million of the president's own money, to hundreds of charitable organizations.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump defended his charity and called the lawsuit a political witch hunt devised by Democrats, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman started investigating the foundation in 2016 and ordered it to stop fundraising in New York after The Washington Post reported that some of its spending personally benefited the presidential candidate.

Trump also slammed Underwood, who the president said "campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda," for what he claimed was a "total double standard of 'justice.'"

Tuesday's agreement was reached after a New York judge last month rejected arguments from the foundation's lawyers that the lawsuit was politically motivated and should be thrown out.

Once the judge approves the deal to dissolve the charity, the two sides will have 30 days to provide her with a list of nonprofit organizations that should get the remaining funds. Each charity will get the same amount, and the attorney general's office will have the right to reject ones it deems unfit to receive funds.

"Today’s stipulation accomplishes a key piece of the relief sought in our lawsuit earlier this year," Underwood said.

The Trump Foundation will only be able to pour the charitable assets it still has into "reputable organizations" approved by the attorney general's office, Underwood added.

Underwood filed the lawsuit against the Trump Foundation after taking over for fellow Democrat Schneiderman, who resigned in May amid allegations he physically abused women.

Underwood referred the office's findings to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission. Those agencies have not commented on the matter.

Underwood alleged that Trump used the foundation to help bolster his campaign by giving out big grants of other's people money to veterans' organizations during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of 2016.

Trump was also accused of directing that $100,000 in foundation money be used to settle legal claims over an 80-foot flagpole he had built at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, instead of paying the expense out of his own pocket.

In 2013, the foundation gave an improper $25,000 check to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at the same time her office was deliberating joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and the Florida-based Trump Institute. After the check came in, Bondi's office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.  

The foundation also paid $158,000 to resolve a lawsuit over a prize for a hole-in-one contest at a Trump-owned golf course; $10,000 to buy a 6-foot (1.8-meter) portrait of Trump at a charity auction; and $5,000 for ads promoting Trump's hotels in the programs for charitable events.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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