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Trump Foundation Woes: That $10K Portrait Didn't Help

Charity is shutting down, but New York state lawsuit continues
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2018 10:25 AM CST
Updated Dec 18, 2018 2:34 PM CST

(Newser) – President Trump's controversial charitable foundation is shutting down. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Tuesday that the Donald J. Trump Foundation has agreed to dissolve itself under the oversight of the courts and her office, reports ABC News. Earlier this year, Underwood sued the foundation, alleging that the Trump family used it illegally for their own political and economic benefit rather than as a charity. On Tuesday, she said the ongoing investigation found "a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation—including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more." The details:

  • Troubles not over: Just because the foundation is going away doesn't mean the lawsuit is. "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," said Underwood, per NBC News.
  • In defense: Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas says Underwood is presenting a misleading account of the agreement to dissolve in a "further attempt to politicize this matter," reports the AP. He said the foundation had been seeking to dissolve voluntarily since Trump became president, but Underwood wouldn't allow it.
  • That portrait: An example of apparently iffy use of foundation money? The organization once paid $10,000 for a 4-foot-tall portrait of Trump to hang at one of his golf clubs, the Washington Post previously reported. Tax law experts suggested this would violate rules against "self-dealing," referring to a charitable group spending money on itself.

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  • Biggest, smallest: The Post also has details on the biggest and smallest donations made by the foundation, both in 1989. The organization gave a $264,231 gift to the Central Park Conservancy, but that seemed to benefit Trump's business: It was for the restoration of a fountain outside Trump's Plaza Hotel. The same year, the foundation gave $7 to the Boy Scouts. That's how much it cost to enroll Donald Jr., then 11, in the group.
  • Political example: Underwood alleges that the foundation essentially acted as an arm of the Trump campaign in 2016, reports the New York Times, and it provides an example. That year, campaign chief Corey Lewandowski wrote the foundation's treasurer days ahead of the presidential caucuses in Iowa with a request to "make some disbursements" in the state.
  • Trump's vow: Back in June, when the lawsuit surfaced, the president blamed "sleazy New York Democrats" for unfairly going after his foundation. "I won't settle this case!" he tweeted. Foundation attorney Futerfas, meanwhile, said the foundation had distributed about $19 million, including $8.25 million of Trump’s own money, to more than 700 charities over the last decade, with “virtually zero” expenses, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Now what: The foundation has $1.75 million left, and it will be distributed to other charities under the oversight of Underwood and a state judge. Underwood is seeking restitution of $2.8 million, and she wants to bar Trump and his three oldest children from serving on the boards of other charities.
(Read more Donald J. Trump Foundation stories.)

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