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Trump Pays Up One Month After Admitting He Misused Charitable Funds for Political Gain

One month after President Donald Trump settled a lawsuit he said he wouldn’t settle — and admitted to illicitly using his now-shuttered charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, to benefit his 2016 candidacy — the president has paid up.

New York Attorney General Letitia James celebrated the win in a press release on Tuesday.

“Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain,” James said. “Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law.”

“Funds have finally gone where they deserve — to eight credible charities. 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,” she added.

The press release was not shy about repeating the stipulations of the aforementioned settlement and concomitant order to pay out the $2 million to eight charities (“Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum”):

Additionally, as part of the settlement, Trump was required to agree to 19 admissions, acknowledging his personal misuse of funds at the Trump Foundation, and agreed 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 settlement also included mandatory training requirements for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, which the three children have already undergone. Finally, the settlement required the Trump Foundation to shutter its doors last December and dissolve under court supervision.

The order ended multiple pending actions in the case that was originally filed in June 2018–and also put 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 was 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 was 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 at the time. “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.”

Nonetheless, as part of the settlement, Trump admitted several instances of illegal activity:

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.

Last December, the Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve under judicial supervision due to Underwood’s initial lawsuit.

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

[Image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.