- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2018

New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a court to shut down President Trump’s charitable foundation, accusing him of abusing the foundation to enrich himself and help his political campaign.

Barbara Underwood brought the lawsuit in state court in New York against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Mr. Trump, and his children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.

She said the foundation, created in the 1980s, hasn’t held a board meeting since 1999, leaving Mr. Trump to run it “according to his whim.”

The lawsuit says he mixed the foundation’s business with his presidential campaign’s operations, including a high-profile fundraiser for veterans in 2016 just before the Iowa caucuses.

The lawsuit includes a photo of Mr. Trump standing with a giant-sized check to a veterans group. The check includes both Trump Foundation and Trump campaign insignia.

In several instances, Mr. Trump used foundation money to cover legal bills against properties owned by him and his company, the Trump Organization, New York charged. Those included a $100,000 settlement for claims against the Mar-a-Lago resort and a $158,000 payment to settle a claim stemming from a hole-in-one tournament at Trump National Golf Club.

The lawsuit also said the foundation’s purchases, such as a $10,000 payment at a charity auction for a painting of Mr. Trump, personally benefited him. The painting was then displayed at a Florida golf course owned by Mr. Trump.

“In sum, the investigation revealed that the foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization. This resulted in multiple violations of state and federal law because payments were made using foundation money regardless of the purpose of the payment,” the Democrat-appointed attorney general said in the 41-page complaint.

Mr. Trump lashed out at Ms. Underwood. He said she was carrying out the work of Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as attorney general this year amid reports of sexual abuse.

“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. I won’t settle this case!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

“Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle,” he added.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, tweeted that the New York lawsuit suggests the need for his committee “to follow the money in the Russian probe.” He was referring to suspected collusion between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

“If Trump family would misuse charitable donations for its financial or political benefit, would it hesitate to launder Russian money to same end?” Mr. Schiff added.

The lawsuit doesn’t broach those issues, but it does suggest that Mr. Trump may have misled federal authorities at the IRS.

According to the complaint, Mr. Trump had knowledge that his foundation was engaging in political activities, which New York said would be illegal, yet he decided to intertwine his campaign activities with the foundation.

Ms. Underwood said she has sent referrals alerting the IRS and the Federal Election Commission to suspected federal law violations.

The Trump Foundation said the lawsuit represented “politics at its worst.”

“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,” said the representative from the foundation, adding that the former New York attorney general used this investigation for political goals and fundraising.

The lawsuit is asking Mr. Trump to pay $2.8 million in restitution, which the New York attorney general says is the amount used from his foundation to influence his political campaign.

During the 2016 campaign season, Mr. Trump relentlessly attacked his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for her ties to the Clinton Foundation. He suggested that donors would get favors from Mrs. Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state.

Charlotte Clymer, who worked on Mrs. Clinton’s communications team, chimed in on Twitter about the irony of the lawsuit.

“It’s really this simple: if you’re a news outlet who found it worthwhile to look into thin allegations of financial wrongdoing at the Clinton Foundation, I’m sure this terribly fascinating news about the Trump Foundation should have you rushing to publish articles, right?” Ms. Clymer tweeted.

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