NEW YORK — President Donald Trump's foundation served as a personal piggy bank for his businesses, legal bills and presidential campaign, New York's Attorney General said Wednesday as she sued the charity, Trump and three of his children.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation "was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality," Democratic AG Barbara Underwood said as she sued to dissolve the foundation and seek $2.8 million in restitution.
The lawsuit against the foundation and its directors, including the president and his children Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., alleges that the foundation illegally helped support the Republican's campaign by raising money at a nationally televised fundraiser in January 2016, then allowing campaign staffers to dictate how the money was spent in grants.
"Nothing to talk about – more nonsense,” Donald Trump, Jr. said in Manhattan about the legal action of which he is now a defendant. "Timing couldn’t be more coincidental, right?”
The 41-page lawsuit was filed on Thursday, President Trump's 72nd birthday. It also alleges that money from his foundation was routinely used to settle business disputes. In addition, the suit claims, the foundation was not only used for campaign expenses, but was actually managed by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The president responded to the allegations with a pair of tweets.
"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!...," he wrote.
"....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."
Underwood's predecessor, Democrat Eric Schneiderman, began investigating the foundation in 2016 following Washington Post reports that foundation spending personally benefited the presidential candidate. Schneiderman ordered the foundation to stop fundraising in New York.
The Trump campaign, at the time, said the foundation intended to cooperate with the investigation. The campaign had previously called Schneiderman "a partisan hack" who backed Trump's 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Regarding Thursday's filing, which was done at New York Supreme Court, Schneiderman's successor said this is her doing, not that of her predecessor.
"We brought this case when we were confident we had the evidence and the legal arguments to back it up," Attorney General Barbara Underwood said, in an interview with CNN. "And it was not, obviously, was not settled. That’s usually how cases are brought. There’s nothing unusual about that," she said.
"There’s no reason," Underwood continued, "why a foundation owned and operated by a sitting president should be exempt from the laws that we routinely apply to other foundations.”
Again, Pres. Trump has said that he won't settle this case. He'd said the same thing about another case filed against him by the attorney general's office five years ago in the very same court of law. That case, filed on behalf of former students of Trump University, ended up being settled by Mr. Trump for $25 million.