The New York State Attorney General’s office is suing the Donald J. Trump Foundation, President Trump, and Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr. for what it described as “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct” stemming from “repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests.”
In a court petition filed Thursday, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleged the Trump Foundation engaged in persistent self-dealing and used funds from the charity to “pay off his legal obligations, to promote Trump hotels and other businesses, and to purchase personal items.”
The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the Trump Foundation and to bar Trump and other members of the foundation’s board of directors from serving on the board of any other New York charity, according to a statement from the attorney general.
The lawsuit alleges that the attorney general’s office has unearthed evidence of “at least five self-dealing transactions”—one of which involves the infamous $20,000 portrait of the president that the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold first reported Trump bought using foundation funds.
In a statement, Underwood said the Trump Foundation was “little more than a checkbook” for the president to siphon money into his other legal, business, and political interests:
As alleged in the petition, Mr. Trump used the Trump Foundation’s charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, to promote Trump hotels and other businesses, and to purchase personal items. In addition, at Mr. Trump’s behest, the Trump 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 presidency, including in the days before the Iowa nominating caucuses.
“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” said Attorney General Underwood. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”
The lawsuit targets the president, as well as the Trump Foundation’s board of directors, which includes Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is also implicated in the lawsuit for his actions while serving as Trump’s campaign manager. In one email unearthed by the attorney general’s office, Lewandowski seems to direct when and how Trump Foundation funds should be spent:
Trump responded to the lawsuit Thursday morning on Twitter, declaring: “I won’t settle this case!”
Update, 12:52 pm: In a statement, the Trump Foundation called the allegations “unconscionable” and “politics at its very worst.” The New York Times’ Kenneth Vogel also flagged that the statement was sent by a Trump Organization email address, further muddying the waters.