By Adam Shaw
Published March 16, 2019
New York Attorney General Letitia James, in a court filing Thursday, claimed there's evidence that President Trump turned the Trump Foundation into a branch of his 2016 campaign -- and that he should pay $2.8 million in restitution.
She detailed her case in a 37-page court filing, part of a lawsuit that also seeks to ban Trump and his three eldest children from running any New York charities for 10 years. Bloomberg News reported that the recommendation also includes a $5.6 million penalty.
The foundation's lawyers have argued that the lawsuit is politically motivated.
"In this vacuum of oversight and diligence, Mr. Trump caused the foundation to enter repeatedly into self-dealing transactions and to coordinate unlawfully with his presidential campaign," James said, according to Bloomberg.
The foundation agreed to dissolve “under judicial supervision” in December, and to distribute remaining charitable assets "to reputable organizations approved” by the AG’s office.
But this does not resolve the matter.
The AG office claims that Trump used the foundation’s charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, promote Trump-branded hotels and business interests and purchase personal items.
The suit also claims that the foundation “illegally provided extensive support to his 2016 presidential campaign by using the Trump Foundation’s name and funds it raised from the public to promote his campaign" for the White House.
In particular, it is pointing to a rally Trump held during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses -- during which he called for people to donate to veterans' charities, with the foundation acting as a pass-through. That, James has contended, broke rules barring charities from being part of political campaigns.
The lawsuit also alleges Trump directed that $100,000 of foundation money be used to settle a lawsuit over an 80-foot flagpole he built at his Palm Beach resort.
Trump lashed out at the AG’s office in December after the foundation shuttered, saying there's been a “long-running civil war” started by former AG Eric Schneidermann.
“The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years -- with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc.” he said.
That tweet echoed a statement by Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas, who said the foundation had been looking to shut down since Trump was elected president.
“Contrary to the NYAG’s misleading statement issued earlier today, the Foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J. Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential election," Futerfas said in a statement to Fox News.
"Unfortunately, the NYAG sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7 million. Over the past decade, the foundation is proud to have distributed approximately $19 million, including $8.25 million of the president’s personal money, to over 700 different charitable organizations with virtually zero expenses,” he said.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.