New York State's lawsuit against Trump Foundation can proceed, judge rules

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on Nov 20, 2018.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on Nov 20, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A state judge in Manhattan ruled on Friday (Nov 23) that a lawsuit by the New York state attorney-general could proceed against President Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation over allegations of misused charitable assets, self-dealing and campaign finance violations during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump's lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr Trump, as President, and that the statutes of limitations had expired in the case of some of the actions at issue. They also contended the attorney-general's office suffered from a "pervasive bias" against Mr Trump.

In her 27-page ruling, Justice Saliann Scarpulla disagreed. "I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump," she wrote.

Mr Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Foundation, said in a statement: "The decision means only that the case goes forward. As we have maintained throughout, all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes to assist those most in need. As a result, we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was the second time this year that a New York state judge in Manhattan had decided that Mr Trump, just because he is President, is not immune from civil court cases that involve his unofficial activities or actions that took place before he was in office.

The lawsuit was filed by New York State Attorney-General Barbara Underwood in June. It came after a two-year state investigation into the Trump Foundation found that Mr Trump and his family had improperly used the charity to settle business disputes and to bolster his campaign for president, even involving it in a 2016 political fundraiser in Iowa.

The suit names Mr Trump as well as two of his children, Ivanka and Eric.

"The Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a chequebook to serve Trump's business and political interests," Ms Underwood wrote in a statement on Friday.

"We welcome Justice Scarpulla's decision, which allows our suit to move forward."

The foundation and Trump family could face millions of dollars in penalties from the suit.