Jun 14, 2018, 1:00 PM ET

Donald Trump used his charity money to pay legal bills, promote hotels, lawsuit alleges

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The Donald J. Trump Foundation “has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities” for more than a decade by, among other things, paying off legal bills with charitable funds, the New York Attorney General’s Office said in a lawsuit it filed Thursday.

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The lawsuit accused President Trump -- along with his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka -- of conflating charity with politics, repeated and willful self-dealing and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations.

Filed in state Supreme Court by the attorney general's Charities Bureau, the suit seeks to dissolve the private New York-based foundation and prevent the Trumps from serving as directors of any nonprofits in the future.

PHOTO: President-elect Donald Trump stands with, left to right, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. before he speaks at a press conference at Trump Tower on Jan. 11, 2017, in New York City. John Angelillo/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
President-elect Donald Trump stands with, left to right, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. before he speaks at a press conference at Trump Tower on Jan. 11, 2017, in New York City.

The lawsuit alleges that President Trump used charitable assets to pay off his legal bills, promote Trump hotels and purchase personal items over the past decade.

“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,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “This is not how private foundations should function.”

The president quickly defended the charity, tweeting, “the sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” in reference to the former state attorney general.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, June 1, 2018.Susan Walsh/AP, FILE
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, June 1, 2018.

The most potentially damning allegation involved then-candidate Trump’s fundraiser that he staged instead of participating in a primary debate in Iowa in January 2016. The attorney general’s office said it unearthed an email from then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski dictating the timing, amounts and recipients of grants.

The lawsuit said “at least five $100,000 grants were made to groups in Iowa in the days immediately before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.”

PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr., along with siblings Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany, take part in the roll call in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention, July 19, 2016, in Cleveland.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr., along with siblings Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany, take part in the roll call in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention, July 19, 2016, in Cleveland.

In a statement, the Trump Foundation said, “This is politics at its very worst. The Foundation has donated over $19 million to worthy charitable causes – more than it even received. The President himself – or through his companies - has contributed more than $8 million. The reason the Foundation was able to donate more than it took in is because it had little to no expenses. This is unheard of for a charitable foundation. The Foundation currently has $1.7 million remaining which the NYAG has been holding hostage for political gain.

"This is unconscionable – particularly because the Foundation previously announced its intention to dissolve more than a year and a half ago. The prior NYAG, who was recently forced to resign from office in disgrace, made it his stated mission to use this matter to not only advance his own political goals, but also for his own political fundraising. The acting NYAG’s recent statement that battling the White House is ‘the most important work [she] have ever done’ shows that such political attacks will continue unabated.”

News - Donald Trump used his charity money to pay legal bills, promote hotels, lawsuit alleges

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  • Nala

    paintings and sports helmets are paid for by his foundation he was filmed at the auction! he knows they cooked the books

  • mollydtt

    For the GOP. they are OK with this.
    They worship Trump and are afraid of angering him.
    This story will disappear quickly (if Trump can stop tweeting about it).

  • Independent

    For those that continue to support this unamerican called trump. sorry but you have nothing to counter that would make your choice based on logic. Trump is a con stealing money from tax payers

  • Ctrygrl

    For the most part this was known before the election, at least the presidents use of his so called "charity" as nothing more than his own checkbook of tax deductible money. Everyone remembers his purchase of painting of himself, etc. What is new here is the detailing of the political stuff that went on coordinated by the campaign for its own benefit. Why do you think they were so hot to dissolve this foundation as quickly as possible after the election. None of this makes a bit of difference to the republican cult the best we can hope for is other people will see the incredible crooked corruptness and total disregard for ethics and the law that is the trademark of this president and this administration and resolve to do something about it come November. Do not vote for one single member of this destructive cult for anything on any ballot.

  • JuPMod

    Not surprised. Was it mentioned two years ago that he used charity money to buy paintings for Mar-a-lago? This is nothing new that the Trumps had used charity money to benefit themselves.

  • Jeff Wainright

    Unless the lawsuit is a new development, this is old news. The Trump Foundation and the Trump family's tendency to use it as a personal piggy-bank to pay whatever has been known for at least a year. Don't mistake this statement for support in any way - if anything, this serves as a further example to highlight the moral vacuum in which Trump and those associated with him operate.

  • Arryandan

    Trump voters are good with this. This is proof they have no business making political decisions.

  • rosaliecesar

    D.Trump even used money from his "Charitable foundation" to pay for a portrait of HIMSELF to decorate one of his golf clubs.
    So fo me it was just a piggy bank set up to benefit himself,his campaign and his family and it has nothing to do with helping kids with cancer or education etc nothing to do with generosity towards others but himself and own family and to get tax breaks.

    Really disgraceful to say the least.

  • Joe Mac Pherson

    The Donald J. Trump Foundation is as dishonorable, deplorable and highly questionable, as Trump University.

  • Bill S

    Again I m not shocked or surprised by this. This con man milks idiots for money . Weather it's dump University, board walk hotels , or real-estate scam there always some idiot writing a check.

  • Nearl45 61

    That Karma thing is tough

  • Debra

    Trump has been a crooked con man all his life, and the acorns don't fall far from the tree. Sure, take the money that people donated for kids with cancer and use it instead to buy Donnie Jr. a new boat. No morals, no empathy. Only greed. Grifters gotta grift.

  • SarcasTex

    They claim to have been able to give out more money than they received because of low overhead. Did people pay them to work there? That is the biggest bunch of BS since the latest press conference by Sarah.

  • reality25

    And-

    "Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made more than $80 million in outside income last year"

    Apparently the White House is the Trump family dream job, the perfect cash cow.

  • YouMayBanMeButYouCan'tBanIdeas

    That certainly got a rise out of Trump and his partners in crime. The harsher the language and the stronger the denials, the more spot on the criminal accusations.

  • Abuck 23

    trump's schedule"

    Talk to lawyers about Mueller Investigation.
    Talk to lawyers about Stormy suit.
    Talk to lawyers about Foundation suit.
    Talk to lawyers about Emoluments suit.
    Talk to lawyers about Cohen flipping
    Talk to lawyers about Manafort flipping.
    Tell Giuliani to shut up.

  • Stephen Bishop

    Oh, and Trump, this can't be "Settled". It's a criminal charge.

  • Stephen Bishop

    Did he use charity money to reimburse Cohen for the Stormy payoff?

  • Abuck 23

    Dear New York Attorney General:
    Allow me to help. It's not a civil action. It's called embezzlement and it's a crime. Moreover, if, as reported, the money was wired to various state campaigns, that's wire fraud. If you need help with this, have your girl call my girl. I'll stick him in the slammer pro bono.

  • d big

    How can anyone be low enough to use charity money to buy a picture of himself, and people still support this guy.

  • mark rothschild

    Year 2.....Really???....R-E-A-L-L-Y???....we're Scr-wed

  • brickmette

    Haven't you people ever heard the old saying that 'charity begins at home'?
    It's Trump's charity, so the charitable giving begins at Trump's home.

  • Betty Bloop

    manhattan districts (who know him best) didn't vote 9-1 against him for nothin'

  • Sal Monela

    I don't care how much money the foundation took in and paid out. Any so called 'businessman ' would know that you keep charitable funds totally separate from your personal accounts.
    What an idiot.

  • E W

    Despite his typical phony boasting, the Grifter in Chief will have to settle this, unless he wants a jury to show what NY thinks of him and his Crime Family.