TrumpWatch, Day 511: Trump Foundation Charged With Financial Offenses

Donald Trump presents a check to members of Support Siouxland Soldiers during a rally, in Iowa, January 31, 2016 (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Trump and children could be banned from non-profit organizations


Developments on Day 511 of the Trump Administration:

See also White House Lies About Separation of Children from Immigrant Parents
Podcast: Weekly Roundup — A Lawsuit v. Trump, the North Korea Summit, & UK’s Brexit Bumbling


Civil Case Potentially Leads to Criminal Charges

The Donald J. Trump Foundation, Donald Trump, and his children have been charged with financial offenses, including violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with Trump’s Presidential campaign.

The New York State Attorney General’s office filed the lawsuit on Thursday, seeking repayment of $2.8 million, dissolution of the Foundation, and barring of Trump and children Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka from serving on nonprofit organizations for 10 years.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action.

The lawsuit follows a two-year investigation and revelations in The Washington Post of improper use of charity funds to settle legal claims against Trump’s businesses, purchase of items for personal use — such as $10,000 on a portrait of Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs — and oversight of distribution of money by the Trump campaign: the petition asserts that the Foundation became a political branch, with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing its expenditures, even though such foundations are explicitly prohibited from political activities.

The lawsuit’s figure of $2.8 million is based on the declared amount raised for the Foundation at a 2016 Iowa political event. The rally was allegedly set up to gather money for veterans, after Trump skipped a Republican debate, but it was used for the candidate to deride his opponents and promote his supposed achievements.

Donald Trump responded by casting the court filing as a political attack and putting suspect figures:

In fact, Underwood — who took over from Schneiderman last month when he left office over allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior — is a civil servant and not a political appointment. She has said she will not seek election to the Attorney General’s post when the current term expires.

She said on Thursday:

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. This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the foundation accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.

Prosecutors found there was no official in charge of the Foundation’s revenues and disbursements. When the person listed as Foundation treasurer was contact, he said he was not even aware of his position on the board.

That board, with Donald Trump and his three members, has not met since 1999.

Among the claims of the FO0undation as a “checkbook”, in the absence of oversight:

*The $10,000 portrait obtained by the Foundation for Trump was one of “at least five self-dealing transactions”, violating tax regulations that prohibit using nonprofit charities for private interests.

*In 2007, to redress code violations found by the City of Palm Beach, Florida, in an examination of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump did not make personal restitution — instead, the Foundation paid $100,000 to the Fisher House Foundation, another charity.

*In 2012, golfer Martin Greenberg sued the Trump National Golf Club after he made a hole-in-one at a fund-raising tournament, winning a $1 million prize. Trump never paid the money. After court action, the Foundation paid $158,000 to a foundation run by Greenberg.

*The Foundation paid $5,000 to an organization for “promotional space featuring Trump International Hotels”, and $32,000 to fulfil Trump’s pledge to a charitable land trust.

State and federal laws bar charities from lobbying, aiding a political campaign, or giving undue benefits that further a person’s self-interests, rather than those of the organization.

The Attorney General’s petition notes that the civil lawsuit could have criminal implications. Trump signed annual tax filings, under penalty of perjury, in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity.

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post:


Trump to G7: Crimea Is Russian Because “Everyone Speaks Russian There”

Donald Trump told other leaders at last week’s G7 summit that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian, according to two diplomatic sources.

Trump made the remarks over dinner last Friday during a discussion on foreign affairs, parroting the Kremlin’s line on taking Crimea from Ukraine, an annexation in 2014 considered illegal by much of the international community.

The annexation led to international sanctions on Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has campaigned since then for the lifting of the sanctions, including in contacts with the Trump Administration.

During the dinner, Trump questioned why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine, according to the diplomats. He told other leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world”.

It is unclear whether Trump’s comments had any connection with a change in current US foreign policy.

Questioned on Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I’m not aware of any comment like that. I know it been reported but I’m not going to comment on a private conversation I wasn’t a part of.”

Related Posts

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

Leave a Comment