The Donald J. Trump Foundation is now the subject of an investigation by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and state officials say a criminal probe may come as a result, according to a New York Times report. If that does happen, the newspaper said, President Donald Trump may finally have to turn over his tax returns.
Trump famously refused to reveal the information in his tax returns while he was running for office. While doing so is not required by law, it has been a tradition for candidates to turn over their returns for public scrutiny. Trump had teased turning them over at some point, then claimed he would not do so because he was under audit.
The current investigation deals with possible violations of New York State tax laws, but details have yet to come out. It also comes on the heels of a civil lawsuit from New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood against the president and his children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. that alleged “persistently illegal conduct” regarding the Foundation. That lawsuit claimed that the charitable organization operated without the oversight of a functioning board, and that its money was used for various purposes in violation of state and federal laws. This included, according to the complaint, paying off legal expenses for Trump’s businesses, supporting his campaign, promoting his hotels, and even for personal purchases.
It remains to be seen whether state officials will initiate a criminal investigation. If such a probe does move forward, it could put Underwood’s civil case on hold if Trump or the Foundation seek a stay. This is exactly what Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen did, getting a stay in the civil case brought against him by Stormy Daniels while federal prosecutors are currently investigating him.
Underwood’s office appears to be reviewing evidence and weighing its options, with a potential criminal probe on the table, should it be deemed appropriate.
“We continue to evaluate the evidence to determine what additional actions may be warranted, and will seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary,” Communications Director Amy Spitalnick said.
In order to pursue a criminal investigation, Underwood would need a referral from Govern Andrew Cuomo‘s office, which Cuomo appears ready to give, if necessary.
“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the state stands ready to provide the (New York) Attorney General with the appropriate criminal referral on this matter if and when she asks for it,” the governor’s counsel Alphonso David said in a statement.
Law&Crime reached out to Trump Foundation official for comment, but they had not responded by the time of this publication.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]