The attorney general of New York state has sued the Donald J Trump charitable foundation, President Trump and three of his children on Thursday for violating state charity laws, alleging that the Trumps used charitable assets as “little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr Trump” and his companies.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney general Barbara Underwood on the morning of Trump’s 72nd birthday, seeks $2.8m in restitution and penalties from Trump and asks for the distribution of $1m in assets to other charities. The lawsuit also seeks to bar the Trumps or the Trump Foundation from engaging in supposedly charitable activity for 10 years.
Trump began tweeting soon after the charges were filed, dismissing the lawsuit as the work of “the sleazy New York Democrats” and claiming the foundation “took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000.”
Shortly before his inauguration, Trump settled a fraud case brought against Trump University by the state attorney general’s office, then run by Eric Schneiderman, for $25m.
“I won’t settle this case!” Trump tweeted Thursday.
“The foundation is little more than an empty shell that functions with no oversight from its board of directors,” the lawsuit alleges. “Trump ran the foundation according to whim, rather than law.”
The lawsuit follows an investigation of the Trump foundation that began in June 2016 under the previous New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in disgrace in May.
“In 2016, the board knowingly allowed the foundation to be coopted by Trump’s presidential campaign,” the suit says. It alleges that Trump used the foundation to stage a giveaway to veterans during the campaign, to decorate a golf club and pay off creditors.
Schneiderman, who served for seven years, sued the Trump organization on multiple fronts. After the inauguration, Schneiderman’s office sued the Trump administration and congressional Republicans at least 100 times.