Trump Foundation to dissolve as part of lawsuit

A file photo of then presidential candidate Donald Trump presenting a cheque from the Trump Foundation to the Puppy Jake Foundation in 2016.
A file photo of then presidential candidate Donald Trump presenting a cheque from the Trump Foundation to the Puppy Jake Foundation in 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
A file photo of then presidential candidate Donald Trump presenting a cheque from the Trump Foundation to the Puppy Jake Foundation in 2016.
New York Attorney-General Barbara Underwood

NEW YORK • The Donald J. Trump Foundation, once billed as the charitable arm of the United States President's financial empire, has agreed to dissolve and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision as part of an ongoing investigation and lawsuit by the New York Attorney-General.

The foundation was accused by Attorney-General Barbara Underwood of "functioning as little more than a cheque book to serve Mr Trump's business and political interests" and of engaging in "a shocking pattern of illegality" that included unlawfully coordinating with Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

In addition to shuttering the charity, her office has pursued a lawsuit that could bar the President and his three oldest children from the boards of other New York charities, as well as force the payment of millions in restitution and penalties.

What assets remain after penalties will be directed to charities approved by the Attorney-General's Office, and the process will be subject to judicial supervision.

"This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone," Ms Underwood said in announcing the agreement on Tuesday.

The closure of the foundation is a milestone in what has been a two-year investigation after the nonprofit's management and giving patterns emerged as a flash point in the 2016 campaign.

Ms Underwood and a lawyer for the Trump foundation signed the stipulation agreeing to the dissolution.

"We'll continue to move our suit forward," Ms Underwood said, "to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law."

CLEAR AND REPEATED VIOLATIONS

We'll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.

NEW YORK ATTORNEY-GENERAL BARBARA UNDERWOOD

Non-profit foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities. But the Attorney-General's Office has charged that the Trump Foundation was used to win political favour, accusing the foundation of virtually becoming an arm of the Trump campaign, with its campaign manager, Mr Corey Lewandowski, directing the foundation to make disbursements in Iowa only days before the state held its presidential nominating caucuses.

"Is there any way we can make some disbursements (from the proceeds of the fund-raiser) this week while in Iowa? Specifically on Saturday," Mr Lewandowski wrote to the foundation's treasurer in an e-mail disclosed in the lawsuit.

Mr Trump was required to sign annual filings in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity.

The President had said after the 2016 election that to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, he would dissolve the foundation. But the Attorney-General's Office blocked him from doing so amid concerns about the handling of the foundation's documents and assets. Mr Trump has long claimed that all the foundation's money went to "wonderful charities" that had legitimate purposes.

Mr Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the foundation, accused Ms Underwood of making a "misleading statement" on Tuesday in "a further attempt to politicise this matter".

Mrs Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, refused to comment on the dissolution of the Trump Foundation.

Next month, the ongoing case will fall to the incoming attorney-general, Ms Letitia James, a vocal critic of Mr Trump.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2018, with the headline 'Trump Foundation to dissolve as part of lawsuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe