In the midst of impeachment proceedings and subpoenas for tax returns, President Trump faces yet another legal battle. Last Thursday, a New York state judge ordered Trump to pay a total of $2 million in damages to charitable groups after finding misuse in his foundation’s funds. This ruling came after Trump admitted to using money that had been raised for various causes to support himself politically and financially, including the purchase of a $10,000 self-portrait for one of his properties. This case was also focused on a 2016 fundraiser Trump held in Iowa to raise money for veterans. According to NPR, these funds, totaling $2.82 million, were misused by Trump and his campaign.
When this investigation began last December, the Trump Foundation decided to dissolve. The lawsuit accused the foundation of taking part in “a shocking pattern of illegality” while working “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.” This sort of action is illegal, as an executive is barred from using charity funds for his or her own self-interest.
On October 1, a settlement was reached between the New York State attorney general and Trump’s lawyer. As reported by The New York Times, Trump was to give the foundation’s remaining $1.7 million to charities that have no personal or political connection to the president or his family, including Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals on Wheels, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of the National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In reference to the Iowa fundraiser, Trump was ordered to pay only $2 million in damages because the money raised by his campaign did eventually reach veterans’ charities. Because they were board members, Trump’s three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, underwent mandatory training to ensure they never take part in similar illegal activities in the future.
Many praised the court’s decision, including the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who had been criticizing the Trump Foundation for years. They saw the ruling as both vindication and also a warning to others who may want to use charitable funds for personal gain. New York State attorney general, Letitia James, was quoted as saying, “No one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States.”
Abby Haslem – Copy Editor