Donald Trump’s foundation has closed down amid claims of illegal activity
Donald Trump is not just a president and a businessman, he is also a renowned philanthropist. In 2015, he claimed to have donated more than $102m to charitable causes in the last five years. However, an investigation by the Washington Post found that many of the donations were from his foundation - rather than the man himself. In fact, it was reported this year that Donald Trump hasn’t donated to his own charity since 2008.
This is the troubled Trump Foundation - and its inner workings get more complicated and more mired by controversy. It stands accused of misusing its funds and, as announced by Attorney General of New York State Barbara Underwood, it is to close permanently.
This was a crushing blow for the president, who is currently fighting a number of legal battles. Suggesting that Trump used the organisation to appear more charitable, Underwood accused Trump and his three eldest children of exploiting the foundation for private and political gain.
“Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation - including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more,” explained Underwood in a statement. “This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”
“Today’s stipulation accomplishes a key piece of the relief sought in our lawsuit earlier this year,” she continues. “Under the terms, the Trump Foundation can only dissolve under judicial supervision - and it can only distribute its remaining charitable assets to reputable organizations approved by my office.”
Trump’s reputation has been dragged through the mud and, in what was already a rough month for the president, a number of events unfolded on 21 August. Trump took shots at former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, scrapped regulations on coal emissions, then celebrated at a huge rally in West Virginia.
However, less under his control were various legal proceedings happening around the country. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted on eight charges of tax and bank fraud. In what many media outlets referred to as the “worst hour” of his presidency, his ex-attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges moments later. These charges included campaign finance violations relating to hush money payments. These involved now-vindicated former adult star Stormy Daniels who claimed to have had a relationship with Trump.
On the same day, Omarosa Manigault Newman - the ex-aide Trump infamously referred to as a “dog” - released a clip on MSNBC Hardball of Michael Cohen on the campaign plane in 2016. This added further weight to the argument that he was heavily involved in Trump securing the presidency.
The following month, an anonymous White House insider blasted Trump in an op-ed New York Times essay. More recently, however, there have been further developments. Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail last week - providing a visceral reminder of the consequences of playing with political fire.
“This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone,” adds Attorney General of New York State Barbara Underwood in her statement regarding the Trump Foundation. “We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”
"Given the Trump Foundation's egregious pattern of illegality - including repeatedly using charitable assets for unlawful purposes - that was unacceptable," stated an Underwood spokesperson in a follow-up statement. "That's why AG Underwood's suit demanded dissolution under court supervision, with our office's oversight of how the charitable assets will be distributed - and that's exactly what we achieved with the Trump Foundation's concession today.”
The attorney general’s office filed a 41-page document with the New York Supreme Court back in June which went into detail regarding alleged illegality around Trump's business dealings and non-profits dating back more than a decade.
Mentioned in the document is a charity fundraiser for veterans in Iowa. Trump attended this event instead of taking part in a televised debate ahead of the presidential election. Over $2.8m was donated at the fundraiser but it is claimed that the money went to Trump’s campaign in Iowa, rather than to veterans.
The lawsuit also alleges that the foundation paid $158,000 to settle claims against one of Trump’s golf clubs, $100,000 to settle legal claims in connection with Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and $10,000 to purchase a painting of the man himself.
"Unfortunately, the NYAG [New York Attorney General] sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7m,” stated Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas in a statement to the BBC. "Over the past decade, the foundation is proud to have distributed approximately $19m, including $8.25m of the president's personal money, to over 700 different charitable organisations with virtually zero expenses.” Futerfas, who was the signatory to the deal closing the foundation, added: "The NYAG's inaccurate statement of this morning is a further attempt to politicize this matter."
While Trump is known to weather a storm, it seems that his misdealings may finally catch up with him. Legal proceedings are set to continue and it seems as if the Trump Foundation is set to suffer a considerable fall from grace.