WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump lashed out at "sleazy New York Democrats" after the state's attorney-general sued him, three of his children and his foundation, saying he used the charity as his "personal cheque book".
Mr Trump vowed on Thursday that he would never settle the case, brought by Attorney-General Barbara Underwood.
The President took to Twitter to blame the action on "disciples" of former attorney-general Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May after four women in a magazine article accused him of physical abuse.
"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!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
Ms Underwood charged in the lawsuit that the Trump Foundation engaged in "extensive unlawful political coordination" with Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The case, filed in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, followed a 21-month probe that began on Mr Schneiderman's watch.
She said the foundation engaged in "repeated and wilful self-dealing" for Mr Trump's personal, business and political interests, including buying a portrait of Mr Trump for US$10,000 (S$13,460) at a charity auction and using it to decorate a Trump golf course.
An official for the watchdog group Common Cause said the New York probe provided details of actions that could also violate a federal ban on campaigns funnelling "soft money"through nonprofits.
The lawsuit seeks US$2.8 million of restitution plus penalties, a 10-year ban on Mr Trump serving as a director of a New York nonprofit, and one-year bans for his children.
Mr Trump noted that Mr Schneiderman ran the New York campaign for former US senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in 2016.
"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," Mr Trump said on Twitter.
"Now he resigned his office in disgrace and his disciples brought it when we would not settle."
The Trump Foundation blasted the suit as "politics at its very worst", saying the charity had spent more than it had received in donations.
Its statement accused the New York Attorney-General of holding US$1.7 million in foundation assets "hostage for political gain".
"This is unconscionable," it said.