Trump Foundation Says New York Lawsuit Is Politically Motivated
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump and his children are setting up a showdown with New York over the future of the president’s personal charity, claiming the state’s lawsuit to shutter the nonprofit for a litany of violations is politically motivated and distorts decades of good deeds.
The suit by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, alleging the nonprofit was little more than Trump’s "piggy bank," is tainted by her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, who was blinded by his role as “leader of the resistance” to Trump’s agenda, the charity said late Thursday.
“The evidence of bias emanated directly from Mr. Schneiderman himself,” the charity said in a filing in Manhattan. “The record leaves no doubt that the lead investigator of Mr. Trump was an open and notorious adversary of Mr. Trump, and his office shared and continued that posture.”
The filing, a request to dismiss the case, also urges Justice Saliann Scarpulla in state Supreme Court to dismiss the suit because it’s constitutionally prohibited while Trump is in office.
Underwood’s communications director, Amy Spitalnick, said in a statement that Trump treated his 30-year-old charity like “a personal piggy bank” and vowed to press on with the lawsuit, which was filed in June.
Underwood “believes that anyone who breaks our state’s charities laws should be held accountable, no matter their position,” Spitalnick said. “No one is above the law, not even the president.”
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the charity, slammed the attorney general for accusing the nonprofit of sloppy management, insufficient documentation and widespread misuse of funds, including the use of charity cash for political purposes. He accused Underwood of “impropriety” for refusing to let the charity voluntarily dissolve before the case was brought.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation will have raised and distributed $19 million to hundreds of organizations by the time it closes for good, including $8 million donated by Trump and his companies, according to the filing.
“Unlike most charitable foundations, where significant funds go to pay salaries, meals, travel costs and other administrative expenses, the foundation operated with little to no expenses, thereby allowing nearly every penny raised to go exactly where it should: to support those most in need,” the Trump Foundation said in the filing.
The lawsuit is inherently biased, the charity claims, because Schneiderman publicly attacked Trump while he was a candidate for the presidency while simultaneously praising his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The charity also accused Schneiderman of a double standard by ignoring “serious and significant” misconduct by the Clinton Foundation, including its alleged violation of New York law by failing to disclose $225 million in donations from foreign governments, according to the filing.
The Clinton Foundation didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Underwood continued Schneiderman’s inflammatory rhetoric, saying publicly that she considers her battles with Trump “the most important work” she has ever done and vowing to continue it, according to the filing. The charity said that when Schneiderman abruptly resigned in May, after being accused of assaulting women, Underwood took charge and within three days “demanded an immediate meeting” with the foundation to discuss the investigation. Once again, Trump says, the attorney general refused to let it voluntarily shut down.
Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are also named in the suit, with Underwood seeking to ban them from serving on the boards of any New York-based charities for a year. Scarpulla, at a June hearing, had urged the parties to resolve much of the lawsuit outside court.
The foundation’s legal woes expanded this month when New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance subpoenaed Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, as part of a state investigation. The agency declined to comment on details of the subpoena. But a person familiar with the request for information, who declined to comment publicly, said it relates specifically to Trump’s foundation.
Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance violations, admitting he’d arranged before the 2016 election to pay hush money to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
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