On Thursday, the New York State attorney general sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, charging it with “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”
The lawsuit follows years of scrutiny of President Trump’s charitable activities and adds to the president’s extensive legal challenges, amid a continuing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
What is the Trump Foundation?
Mr. Trump established the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1987, when he was a New York City real estate mogul, with the stated mission of collecting and maintaining money “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes,” either directly or by donating to other organizations. It is a private, nonprofit corporation. In its most recent I.R.S. filing, reporting as of Dec. 31, 2016, it had approximately $1 million in assets.
Mr. Trump served as the foundation’s president from its start until Jan. 23, 2017, three days after he was inaugurated as president. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also stepped down from her position on the foundation’s board of directors. His sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are still members of the board.
Why is New York State investigating it?
In October 2016, then-Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman ordered the Trump Foundation to cease soliciting donations in New York, after reporting by The Washington Post revealed a host of confirmed and potential legal violations.
Mr. Trump admitted to using the foundation’s money to contribute to political causes. He was also accused of diverting funds to settle disputes involving his businesses, failing to disburse funds to charities to which he said he had given large amounts of money, and publicly claiming credit for donating funds that had actually come from other groups.
After the election, Mr. Trump announced that he would dissolve the foundation to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, a move the attorney general’s office said would require its approval, given the continuing investigation.
What are the accusations in the lawsuit?“Improper and extensive political activity”
According to the lawsuit, the Trump foundation’s board “knowingly permitted” it to be “co-opted by Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”
In January 2016, Mr. Trump hosted a nationally televised charity fund-raiser in Des Moines, Iowa, to raise funds for veterans’ organizations. The fund-raiser collected $5.6 million in donations, including $2.8 million directly to the Trump Foundation.
But the fund-raiser was planned, organized, financed and directed