President Donald Trump must personally pay $2 million in fines because he illegally used his charity to benefit his 2016 candidacy. A state judge in New York delivered the judgment on Thursday afternoon. The judicially-assessed penalty must be paid to a number of nonprofit organizations in the Empire State.
A press release from New York Attorney General Letitia James notes the general contours of the settlement:
[James] announced that her office entered into multiple stipulations with the Trump Foundation and its directors to resolve the remaining claims in the lawsuit. Chiefly, Mr. Trump admits to personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation, and agrees to restrictions on future charitable service and ongoing reporting to the Office of the Attorney General in the event he creates a new charity. The settlements also include mandatory training requirements for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.
The judge’s order ends multiple pending actions in the case that was originally filed in June 2018–and also puts to bed a prior statement of defiance made by the 45th president.
“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” Trump tweeted on the day charges were filed by then-New York attorney general Barbara Underwood. “I won’t settle this case!”
The case is now settled–but for an amount substantially lower than New York State authorities had initially hoped and requested.
As Law&Crime previously reported, James filed a recommendation in March that Trump personally pay $8.4 million in penalties and fines due to his family’s frequently improper use of the Trump Foundation.
Also originally requested was an absolute bar on Trump himself serving on non-profit boards in New York for the next decade and a proposed one-year ban for Trump’s adult children. The settlement is significantly more lenient in both monetary and punitive terms.
“The Trump Foundation has shut down, funds that were illegally misused are being restored, the president will be subject to ongoing supervision by my office, and the Trump children had to undergo compulsory training to ensure this type of illegal activity never takes place again,” James said. “The court’s decision, together with the settlements we negotiated, are a major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain. My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the President of the United States.”
James alleged the non-profit failed to meet as a corporate board, failed to conduct any relevant oversight regarding grants issued and also failed to implement any policy whatsoever which might have protected the charity’s funds from being skimmed by the Trump clan.
“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 in her filing with the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Relatively amusingly, James also noted that Trump personally ordered his charity to spend $100,000 in order to settle legal claims over an 80-foot flagpole he had built at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Last December, the Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve under judicial supervision due to Underwood’s initial lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, Trump admitted several instances of illegal activity. Again, the press release:
Mr. Trump and the Foundation have admitted key facts about their illegal political coordination with the Trump campaign, including that a purported Foundation fundraiser in January 2016 was in fact a campaign event, and that Foundation gave the Trump campaign complete control over the timing, amounts, and recipients of the $2.8 million raised through that event. Mr. Trump further admits that he and his campaign took credit for the grants that the Foundation made with funds that had been raised from the public. Justice [Saliann] Scarpulla noted in her decision that “Mr. Trump’s campaign, rather than the Foundation: (1) ‘planned’ and ‘organized’ the Fundraiser; and (2) ‘directed the timing, amounts, and recipients of the Foundation’s grants to charitable organizations supporting military veterans.’”
Additionally, Mr. Trump admitted a number of key facts about the other self-dealing transactions he initiated as chair — specifically, that he used Foundation funds to settle legal obligations of companies he controlled, and that the Foundation paid for a portrait of Mr. Trump that cost $10,000. As separate piece of the settlement Donald Trump Jr. reimbursed the Foundation for the cost of the portrait. The settlement also requires the Foundation to be reimbursed $11,525 for sports paraphernalia and champagne purchased at a charity gala.
[image via Win McNamee_Getty Images]