New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday filed a lawsuit against President Trump, his foundation and his three eldest children – seeking to dissolve the charity after what she called its “persistent illegal conduct” over more than a decade.
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 Attorney General Barbara Underwood said as she sued to dissolve the charity and seek $2.8 million in restitution.
The AG said the foundation engaged in “extensive unlawful political coordination” with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, conducted “repeated and willful self-dealing” to benefit his personal and business interests, and violated “basic legal obligations” for nonprofits.
The lawsuit — filed in Manhattan Supreme Court — also names Trump’s children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump because they have been longtime board members of the foundation.
In the filing, Underwood said Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit to pay off his creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway at events during his 2016 campaign.
A foundation spokesman slammed the lawsuit as “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 foundation said in a statement.
“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.”
Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the foundation and asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities,
She also asked that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties because of the “persistently illegal conduct” at the charity.
Underwood also asked that Trump be banned from leading any other state nonprofit for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the US president.
In the suit, Underwood noted that the president had already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016.
New York state began investigating the Trump Foundation in response to a probe by The Washington Post.
Underwood said a 20-month state investigation found that the president had violated laws about tax-exempt foundations, including that their money is meant to serve the public good — not to provide private benefits to their founders.
“This resulted in multiple violations of state and federal law,” she wrote in the complaint.
The White House and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Washington Post.
In late 2016, Trump promised to shut down the Trump Foundation, which he founded in 1987, but could not while the attorney general’s probe continued.
Underwood was only recently promoted to the position of attorney general after Eric Schneiderman resigned amid allegations that he had physically abused several romantic partners.
In its statement, the Trump Foundation added: “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.”
The AG has jurisdiction over the Trump Foundation because it is based at Trump Tower in Manhattan and registered in the state.