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New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued President Donald Trump and his charitable foundation on Thursday, alleging that the president and his adult children illegally used the private foundation for personal, business, and political expenses.
The lawsuit alleges illegal activity that took place over more than a decade, including “extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations,” according to a statement from the attorney general’s office.
The suit accuses the president, along with Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., of violating multiple counts of state and federal law. Foundation funds were used to pay off Trump family legal obligations, promote Trump businesses, purchase personal items, and influence the president’s 2016 campaign, the suit said.
Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. were members of the foundation’s board, but failed to ensure the proper handling of charitable funds, the suit alleges. In fact, the board had not met since 1999.
Trump responded on Twitter, vowing not to settle.
In a statement, the Trump Foundation called New York’s lawsuit a “political attack.”
“This is politics at its very worst. The Foundation has donated over $19 million to worthy charitable causes — more than it even received. The President himself – or through his companies — has contributed more than $8 million. The reason the Foundation was able to donate more than it took in is because it had little to no expenses. This is unheard of for a charitable foundation,” a spokesman for the Foundation said.
According to the suit, campaign staff repeatedly directed the foundation’s disbursement of funds and used the donations to boost the campaign, particularly with an Iowa fundraiser the president threw in lieu of attending a presidential debate in early 2016. Enlarged foundation checks were displayed at campaign events.
In one instance, the petition cites an email sent by Trump’s then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, telling the foundation to cut a $100,000 check to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation after a media inquiry about Trump’s charitable donations. A check was sent to the group the same day.
“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”
The attorney general is seeking to dissolve the foundation under court supervision and obtain restitution of $2.8 million, plus additional penalties. It would also ban the president from serving as a director on a New York nonprofit for a decade, and ban Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. from doing the same for a year.
The attorney general has sent letters identifying potential violations to the Federal Elections Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, as well.