Friday, June 15News That Matters

Trump Foundation hits back at 'political motivations' of New York attorney general's lawsuit


New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and Donald Trump. (Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP (2), Getty Images.)

summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, which took place on Tuesday, and the release of an internal report on the FBI’s 2016 investigations of Hillary Clinton and of Russian influence on the presidential election. The report was critical of former FBI Director James Comey, a frequent Trump target, and other FBI officials.’ data-reactid=”25″>In response to the lawsuit, the foundation released a statement accusing the attorney general of “playing politics and nothing more.” The statement suggested Underwood, who is a Democrat, was trying to distract from President Trump’s summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, which took place on Tuesday, and the release of an internal report on the FBI’s 2016 investigations of Hillary Clinton and of Russian influence on the presidential election. The report was critical of former FBI Director James Comey, a frequent Trump target, and other FBI officials.

Part of the the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report after its release in Washington, Thursday, June 14, 2018. (Photo: Jon Elswick/AP)

“The political motivations behind this are made all the more obvious. The NYAG decision to file this petition on the very day of the issuance of the Inspector General’s Report on the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation; and on the heels of an historically successful diplomatic mission abroad,” the Trump Foundation statement said.

The New York lawsuit claims the foundation’s board engaged in a “breach of fiduciary duties” by failing to hold meetings or financial reviews as required by law. While the foundation was incorporated in 1987, the suit claimed the board “had not met since 1999” and that Trump essentially ran the foundation and drew up checks on his own. The suit argued this lack of oversight allowed Trump to “misuse charitable assets,” and that board members are legally liable for their conduct.

a rarely used New York law that bars non-profits from engaging in transactions that could benefit board members without a review.’ data-reactid=”41″>Additionally, the suit claimed the Trump Foundation “diverted charitable assets for improper or unnecessary purposes, including advancing Trump’s political career and settling claims against his businesses. The third and final claim in the suit is just directed at Trump himself, accusing him of violating a rarely used New York law that bars non-profits from engaging in transactions that could benefit board members without a review.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to veterans at Drake University on January 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Donald Trump held his alternative event to benefit veterans after withdrawing from the televised Fox News/Google GOP debate which aired at the same time. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

resigned as New York’s attorney general last month after multiple women accused him of abusive behavior. The statement noted Schneiderman was on the Clinton campaign’s “leadership council” in 2016. It also cited numerous public statements he’d made and public fundraising appeals by his re-election campaign where he promised to “fight the Trump Administration’s destructive policy agenda.”’ data-reactid=”70″>Trump’s foundation fired back with its own allegation that the New York attorney general’s office is trying to score political points with the suit, singling out Underwood’s predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as New York’s attorney general last month after multiple women accused him of abusive behavior. The statement noted Schneiderman was on the Clinton campaign’s “leadership council” in 2016. It also cited numerous public statements he’d made and public fundraising appeals by his re-election campaign where he promised to “fight the Trump Administration’s destructive policy agenda.”

“The disgraced former AG focused the considerable powers of his office to further his own political agenda and his political vendetta against President Trump,” the Trump Foundation statement said.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, rejected the foundation’s charge that the suit was “politically motivated.”

“AG Underwood believes that anyone who breaks our state’s charities laws should be held accountable, no matter their position,” Spitalnick said.

reported by the Washington Post.’ data-reactid=”87″>The Trump Foundation’s payment to the pro-Bondi group was publicly revealed in March 2016 when the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the IRS about the donation and inaccurate tax filing. Trump reimbursed the foundation and paid associated taxes one day after the complaint was reported by the Washington Post.

Underwood’s lawsuit also cites five other payments made by the foundation totaling about $305,000 as examples of “prohibited self-dealing” that benefited Trump. According to the suit, all of these payments were reimbursed with interest “after the commencement of the investigation” into the Trump Foundation.

One of these payments was a 2007 gift of $100,000 that was made to another charitable organization to settle legal claims the city of Palm Beach, Florida had made against Trump’s private club there. The suit also notes the charity paid about $158,000 in 2012 to the foundation of Martin Greenberg, who had sued Trump’s Florida golf club and other organizations associated with a charitable golf tournament that promised contestants could earn $1 million by hitting a hole in one. Greenberg hit the rare shot, but the organizers said he was not at the required distance. His suit was settled for $775,000 including a portion from Trump’s club.

A document cited in the petition showing a payout to Fisher House Foundation as a settlement payment for a flag violation in the city of Palm Beach.

Along with the money stemming from these settlements, the attorney general’s suit said the Trump Foundation paid $5,000 to another charity in exchange for ads promoting Trump’s hotels that appeared in the printed programs at fundraisers and $32,000 to a land trust. A separate entity owned by Trump had donated land to the trust and the money was to be used to maintain the property. The suit argued those funds should have come from the entity that donated the land rather than the foundation.

purchased a painting of themselves at a Unicorn Children’s Foundation event that was presented to them in 2007.” data-reactid=”102″>Lastly, the suit said the Trump Foundation gave $10,000 in 2014 to Unicorn Children’s Foundation for a portrait of Trump that was purchased at an auction for that charity. The suit alleged the painting was hung at a Trump-owned resort in Florida. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, who has extensively covered issues at Trump’s charity, previously documented how the president purchased a portrait for himself at a Unicorn Children’s Foundation auction in 2014. Trump and his wife, Melania, also purchased a painting of themselves at a Unicorn Children’s Foundation event that was presented to them in 2007.

The Trump Foundation’s statement said that, over the years, the organization had received $18.8 million in donations including $8.25 million that came from Trump or businesses he owned. According to the foundation, it had plans to distribute $19.2 million to various charitable causes.

“The Foundation was able to donate more money than it received because it had virtually no expenses, no paid employees, and no overhead,” the statement said, adding, “This stands in sharp contrast to many other foundations.”

Newspaper clip from the palm Beach Post.

The Trump Foundation was based in the Manhattan headquarters of Trump’s real estate company. It employed accountants from that firm. The foundation said $1.7 million in planned donations to various charities is being “held hostage” by the attorney general’s office. In late 2016, shortly after he was elected, Trump said he would dissolve the foundation to avoid any conflicts of interest. However, the New York attorney general’s investigation had already commenced and the foundation was blocked from dissolving while that probe continued.

“Once the NYAG release the hostage $1.7 million, the foundation stands ready to make donations,” the statement said.

A source close to the president expressed dismay over the suit.

“How can a foundation that has no expenses be attacked like this where every dollar went to incredible worthwhile causes?” the source asked.

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