President Donald Trump is shuttering his charity in order to focus on the more important job of leading the country.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Tuesday that Trump agreed to dissolve the Trump Foundation as part of her office’s lawsuit that accuses the family-run philanthropy of a “shocking pattern of illegality.”
The president defended his organization’s “great work” on Wednesday and accused the New York attorney general’s office of targeting him for political reasons.
Trump dissolves charity
Underwood said that Trump’s foundation, which was run by Trump, sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and daughter Ivanka, operated as a “checkbook” for Trump’s personal interests.
“Our petition detailed 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,” Underwood said in a statement. “This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”
Underwood said that the organization agreed to redistribute its funds to other charities on her office’s watch and that she is seeking to prohibit Trump and his family from serving on the boards of other New York charities. Underwood is also seeking $2.8 million in restitution and said that the investigation would continue “to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held accountable for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”
Trump already agreed to close the organization two years ago on the eve of his inauguration to avoid conflicts of interest, but the AG’s office blocked the charity from breaking up until it finishes its investigation. As the AG’s investigation plodded on, journalists at the Washington Post conducted their own months-long investigation into the charity, uncovering an alleged pattern of illegal payments.
The lawsuit lays out numerous alleged misuses of charity money, accusing Trump and his family of using it to settle his accounts, boost his presidential campaign, buy art, promote his hotels, and settle legal disputes involving his business. The Post reported that the foundation donated an unreported $25,000 in campaign money to friend and Republican attorney general Pam Bondi, that its largest disbursement in history went to fixing a fountain at the Plaza Hotel in the 1980s when Trump owned it, and that the foundation participated in an Iowa fundraiser that was allegedly co-opted by the Trump campaign.
The Trump Foundation was just one part of Trump’s life and business that has fallen into the crosshairs of a Department of Justice that many Republicans see as overzealous and biased against the president. Trump blasted “[Andrew] Cuomo and the Dems” on Wednesday for leading a prejudiced investigation against him, saying that the civil lawsuit against his charity was started by “sleazebag” former attorney general Eric Schneidermann, an avowed Trump hater who resigned after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him.
Underwood filed the suit in June after Schneidermann investigated the charity for several months. Trump said that “Shady Eric” was in the pockets of the Clintons and overlooked conflicts of interest involving their foundation while unfairly targeting his organization.
The president also characterized his successors as anti-Trump hacks with an ax to grind.
“In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people – a total double standard of ‘justice,'” Trump tweeted.
The Trumps filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss the case that was swatted by a New York State judge last month, allowing Underwood’s investigation, which Trump argued was biased, to continue.
The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years – with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc. Now, as usual, I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long running civil lawsuit started by…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
Underwood is due to be replaced next month by attorney general-elect Letitia James, who vowed this month to use “every area of the law” at her disposal to investigate Trump, his family, and his business when she takes office.