• Five takeaways from New York's Trump Foundation lawsuit

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    ALBANY — The New York attorney general has accused President Donald Trump and his foundation of a wide array of illegal conduct dating back more than a decade.

    Here are five takeaways from Attorney General Barbara Underwood's lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

    1) Trump's campaign held major sway

    Remember way back in April 2016, when Trump skipped out on a Fox News GOP primary debate and held a competing fundraiser in Iowa for veterans organizations instead?

    That fundraiser makes up a big piece of Underwood's lawsuit.

    The event resulted in $5.6 million in tax-free donations, according to the lawsuit. Of that, $2.8 million went to the Donald J. Trump Foundation and the rest went straight to veterans charities.

    More: N.Y. attorney general sues Donald Trump, Trump Foundation, accusing them of illegal conduct

    But the foundation, however, ceded control of the funds to "senior Trump Campaign staff," including Corey Lewandowski, according to the lawsuit. The campaign staff directed which groups received the money and when. And when Trump presented oversized checks, his campaign slogan was on the bottom.

    Underwood says that's in violation of federal and state laws preventing charities from participating in political activity.

    2) Settling legal claims

    Twice, Trump directed his foundation to make payments to settle legal claims against his private golf clubs.

    In 2007, Trump settled a dispute with the town of Palm Beach, Florida, over his famed Mar-a-Lago club. The town had claimed some flagpoles on the property violated town ordinances; Mar-a-Lago claimed the ordinances were unconstitutional.

    Read: Full lawsuit here

    Ultimately, they settled for a $100,000 contribution to the Fisher House Foundation. But Trump personally directed that money to come out of his foundation's pocket rather than his private club's, as evidenced by a handwritten note he sent at the time.

    The second instance came in 2012, when Trump reached a settlement with Martin Greenberg in a dispute over a hole-in-one contest at the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, Westchester County.

    Part of the settlement was a $158,000 payment to Greenberg's foundation. But the money came from Trump's foundation, not from his golf club.

    Those payments amounted to "improper self-dealing," according to the lawsuit.

    3) The board hadn't met in 19 years

    Charities in New York are required to have a board of directors to act as a check and balance to those running the day-to-day operations.

    But the Trump Foundation's board was pretty much non-existent, Underwood claims.

    "The Board has not met since 1999 and does not oversee the activities of the Foundation in any way," the lawsuit reads.

    Among the board members are Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. All are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the president and the Trump Foundation.

    4) Hotel advertisement and painting

    Other alleged examples of self-dealing include a $5,000 advertisement in the program for the DC Preservation League's 2014 annual gala.

    Trump's foundation picked up the tab. But the advertisement was for the Trump Hotel Collection, promoting the hotel chains reservation line.

    Trump ultimately paid the foundation back in December 2016 -- after the attorney general's office began its investigation.

    In 2014, the foundation paid $10,000 for a painting of Trump at a charity auction. The painting ultimately was hung in the Trump National Doral Miami until November 2016, when the painting was returned to the foundation, which was paid $182.82 as a rental payment.

    The painting payment, as well as much of the conduct in the lawsuit, was first uncovered by The Washington Post.

    5) Trump and his foundation are pushing back

    It didn't take much time for Trump himself to push back.

    He published a pair of tweets Thursday criticizing the lawsuit, vowing that he won't settle and criticizing former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who launched the investigation but has since resigned after he was accused of abusing multiple women.

    "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," Trump wrote. "I won’t settle this case!"

    Trump has pledged to not settle a lawsuit from New York before.

    When Schneiderman sued Trump in 2013 over alleged fraud within the Trump University seminar program, Trump vowed he wouldn't settle the case.

    Ultimately he did shortly after he was elected in 2016, settling the New York case and a related California case for $25 million.

     

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