The New York attorney general sued the Trump Foundation and its directors — Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump — on Thursday, alleging that the nonprofit was essentially a checkbook for personal and political gain.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the foundation "operated in persistent violation" of state and federal charity laws.
The suit, filed on Thursday morning in Manhattan's New York State Supreme Court, alleges that the Trump Foundation, and specifically the president and his three children, engaged in a "pattern of illegal conduct" that included "improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations."
“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,” Underwood said in a statement.
Underwood began a special proceeding to dissolve the the foundation and requested that the foundation pay $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. Additionally, the suit asks that the president be banned from serving as a director of a nonprofit for 10 years and each of his three eldest children be banned for one year.
The investigation, first reported by the Washington Post, also began after an investigation by the newspaper into the Trump Foundation's dealing and transactions. The series of stories, led by reporter David Fahrenthold, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2017.
In response to the news of the suit, President Trump tweeted that he would not settle the case. "I won't settle this case!" the president tweeted after calling New York Democrats "sleazy."
"Now that I am back from Singapore, where we had a great result with respect to North Korea, the thought process must sadly go back to the Witch Hunt, always remembering that there was No Collusion and No Obstruction of the fabricated No Crime," the president began a thread of tweets after news of the suit was released.
The 41-page suit contains various allegations, including that the president used the charity to pay legal obligations, promote his chain of hotels, and purchase personal items.
Notably, the suit also alleges that at "Trump's behest," the nonprofit "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," according to the statement by the New York attorney general.
Neither the Trump Organization nor the White House immediately responded to a request for comment.
Underwood also wrote that she had sent "referral letters" to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission with other "possible violations of federal law for further investigation."
The charity was founded in 1987, with Trump serving as president for the foundation from its inception to 2017. Trump Jr., Eric, and Ivanka have all served as members of the foundation's board of directors at various points.
In the suit, Underwood also wrote that the nonprofit was an "empty shell that functions with no oversight by its board of directors." The board, the suit claims, has not met since 1999.
"In the absence of a functioning board, Mr. Trump ran the foundation according to his whim, rather than the law," the suit reads, writing that the president was the "sole signatory on the Foundation's bank accounts."
The Trump Foundation, the suit alleges, engaged in "self-dealing transactions," which included a $100,00 payment to settle legal claims against Trump's resort, Mar-a-Lago. Another $158,000 payment from the Trump Foundation's money was allegedly used to settle additional legal claims against the Trump National Golf Club, stemming from a 2008 hole-in-one tournament.
In yet another alleged self-dealing transaction, the Trump Foundation used $10,000 at a charity auction to buy a painting of Trump himself, which was later hung in a Trump-owned golf resort near Miami.