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New York State files lawsuit against Trump Foundation

By Lalit K Jha
June 14, 2018 23:47 IST
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Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

New York State on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Donald J Trump Foundation and its board of directors, including President Donald Trump and his family members, alleging persistent 'illegal conduct' for more than a decade.

President Trump reacted sharply to the lawsuit and asserted that he would 'not settle' the case, and accused the Opposition Democrats of continuing with their 'witch hunt' against him.

The lawsuit alleges a pattern of persistent 'illegal conduct', occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Trump's personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.


Simultaneously, New York State Attorney General Barbara D Underwood initiated a special proceeding to dissolve the Trump Foundation under court supervision and obtain restitution of $2.8 million and additional penalties.

Trump took to Twitter to respond to the announcement of the lawsuit.

'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!...

'.. 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 tweeted.

Among other things, the lawsuit also seeks a ban from future service as a director of a New York not-for-profit of 10 years for Trump and one year for each of the foundation's other board members, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.

The petition alleges that the President used the foundation's charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, to promote Trump hotels and other businesses, and to purchase personal items.

In addition, at Trump's behest, the Trump Foundation illegally provided extensive support to his 2016 presidential campaign by using the charity's name and funds it raised from the public to promote his campaign for presidency, including in the days before the Iowa nominating caucuses, the lawsuit alleges.

"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," said Underwood.

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

The Attorney General's investigation found that Trump Foundation raised in excess of $2.8 million in a manner designed to influence the 2016 presidential election at the direction and under the control of senior leadership of the Trump presidential campaign, his office alleged.

The foundation raised the funds from the public at the nationally televised fundraiser Trump held in lieu of participating in the presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 28, 2016, it alleged.

"In violation of state and federal law, senior Trump campaign staff, including Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, dictated the timing, amounts, and recipients of grants by the Foundation to non-profits, as evidenced by communications between Campaign staff and Foundation representatives," it said.

Trump, who returned from the historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday, accused the Democrats of making up a 'phony crime', 'Russian collusion' and 'fake news'.

'Now that I am back from Singapore, where we had a great result with respect to North Korea, the thought process must sadly go back to the Witch Hunt, always remembering that there was No Collusion and No Obstruction of the fabricated No Crime,' he said.

'So, the Democrats make up a phony crime, Collusion with the Russians, pay a fortune to make the crime sound real, illegally leak (Comey) classified information so that a Special Councel will be appointed, and then Collude to make this pile of garbage take on life in Fake News!' Trump said in another tweet.

He also said that 'Fake News' is America's 'biggest enemy' as he singled out some US media outlets for trying to 'downplay' the 'deal' he struck with Kim at their historic summit.

Trump, 72, renewed his attack on the media, hours after he addressed a lengthy press conference in Singapore, trying to sell the 'deal' he has struck with Kim, 34.

He singled out NBC and CNN in his angry tweet.

'So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN,' Trump wrote.

'They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have 'begged' for this deal -- looked like war would break out. Our Country's biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!' he tweeted.

Trump's angry tweet apparently came following a wave of attacks launched on Jim Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent.

Trump officials had attacked Acosta for asking Kim and Trump questions during a signing ceremony at the Singapore nuclear summit.

Brad Parscale, the Trump 2020 campaign manager, said Acosta's press credentials should be 'immediately' suspended, calling the journalist an 'absolute disgrace' on Twitter.

Acosta had responded on Twitter to the suggestion that he have his press credentials revoked, tweeting, 'Dictatorships take away press credentials. Not democracies.'

Trump frequently portrays the news media as one of his enemies, but rarely has he been this blunt about it, CNN commented.

No modern American president has publicly spoken this way about the press, the network said while noting that former President Richard Nixon sometimes talked this way, but only in private.

'Trump relishes the fight. Time and time again, he seizes us-versus-them opportunities, casting the media as an opponent that must be defeated,' it said.

Trump had instituted the so-called 'Fake News Awards' in January and the 'winners' included the New York Times and CNN.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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