New York attorney general sues to dissolve Trump Foundation

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D) alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday against President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Gillum and DeSantis’s first debate GOP warns economy will tank if Dems win Gorbachev calls Trump's withdrawal from arms treaty 'a mistake' MORE, the Donald J. Trump Foundation and members of the Trump family that the charity violated federal and state law and was illegally used to help the president's campaign.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump used the foundation to illegally support his 2016 presidential bid, and that the charity made an illegal in-kind donation of more than $2.8 million to his campaign.

The complaint, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, also alleges that Trump improperly used the foundation’s assets for his properties and businesses, including to settle a legal dispute involving his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and to purchase a portrait of himself at a charity auction.


“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 complaint states.

“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 event elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

The complaint seeks the dissolution of the foundation, and for Trump and his children to be temporarily blocked from serving in other charities in New York state. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B MORE, in addition to President Trump, comprise the foundation’s board of directors.

The lawsuit also requests that President Trump pay “up to double the amount of benefits improperly obtained through self-dealing transactions” made after July 1, 2014 and that the Trump family members “make full restitution for waste and misuse of charitable assets, and to pay demanders resulting from the breach of fiduciary duties.”

President Trump hit back at the lawsuit in a pair of tweets shortly after it was filed on Thursday, slamming it as “ridiculous” and saying he won’t settle the case.

The complaint largely focuses on an Iowa event President Trump held in lieu of participating in a presidential debate in 2016. Then-candidate Donald Trump held a rally to fundraise for veterans groups in January 2016, but faced scrutiny from the media over whether he donated the funds.

President Trump announced the gifts to the charitable organizations four months later.

The lawsuit alleges that President Trump’s campaign “extensively directed and coordinated the Foundation’s activities in connection” with the event.

The complaint states that the foundation assisted the campaign in organizing the event and was widely utilized in promoting it, but that the charity was used “to satisfy the campaign’s requirements.”

The attorney general cited emails showing that the campaign “played the lead in role in determining the disposition” of the fundraiser proceeds, including ones showing then-Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiTrump and son signal support for McCarthy as next Speaker The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Facing major hurricane, Trump is tested Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE communicating with foundation staffers about the disbursement of the funds, according to the document.

“The foundation ceded control over the grants to the campaign, making an improper in-kind contribution of no less than $2.823 million (the amount donated to the Foundation) to the campaign that provided Mr. Trump and the Campaign a means to take credit at campaign rallies, press briefings, and on the Internet, for gifts to veterans charities,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also notes other instances of President Trump allegedly misusing foundation funds, including a 2007 request from President Trump that $100,000 from the foundation be used to settle a lawsuit between the city of Palm Beach, Fla., and his Mar-a-Lago estate.

The document features a handwritten note by President Trump requesting the transaction.

The complaint also notes a political contribution made by the foundation that the charity did not report. Trump Organization staffers said the failure to report the donation was an error, according to the document.

“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 a statement.

“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.”

--This report was updated at 12:21 p.m.