Trump agrees to shutter charity amid scrutiny — but probe into Eric Trump Foundation continues

Donald Trump and his three eldest children face legal trouble due to their charity's actions

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 18, 2018 1:41PM (EST)

Eric Trump; Donald Trump (AP/Richard Drew/Getty/Jamie Squire)
Eric Trump; Donald Trump (AP/Richard Drew/Getty/Jamie Squire)

President Donald Trump and his three children have agreed to shut down a charity, The Donald J. Trump Foundation, due to a number of scandalous accusations being made against it by the State of New York.

"We’ve secured a stipulation requiring the Trump Foundation to dissolve under judicial supervision, with our review of recipient charities," New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood tweeted on Tuesday. "The Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s interests. Our lawsuit remains ongoing."

In additional tweets, Underwood added that "Today’s stipulation accomplishes a key piece of the relief sought in our lawsuit earlier this year. Under the terms, the Foundation can only distribute its remaining charitable assets to reputable organizations that we have approved. This is an important victory for the rule of law. There is one set of rules for everyone. We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held accountable for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law."

The suit filed by the State of New York in June accuses Trump's charity of "persistently illegal conduct" and wanted to not only have it shut down, but also pay $2.8 million in restitution, according to The Washington Post. The State of New York has been pursuing legal action against Trump's charity since 2016, and as far back as 2015 the charity admitted in tax filings that it had engaged in self-dealing. In her investigation, Underwood claims to have discovered that The Trump Foundation engaged in multiple occasions of self-dealing, illegal coordination with his presidential campaign and other acts that violated the law. Although Trump attempted to close the charity in late 2016, the State of New York prevented him from doing so in order to continue its investigation into whether it had broken the law.

"The Donald J. Trump Foundation has abused the rules governing non-profit charitable foundations and admitted to breaking the law," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement on Tuesday. "It apparently operated for the sole purpose of benefiting Donald Trump. CREW filed complaints calling for investigations into the Foundation for improper political activity, lying on its tax returns, and self-dealing to benefit Donald Trump, among other problems. It is good to see this fraud is finally over."

The Washington Post went into further detail about some of the alleged misdeeds of Trump's charity, which he appeared to use for the benefit of himself and his family rather than for genuinely charitable endeavors.

Trump gave away the money in his name and also used the foundation to pay his business’s legal settlements. Federal law prohibits using charity money for personal gain.

The Post’s reporting showed that, for years, Trump appeared to treat the foundation — which was, by law, an independent entity — as a checkbook for gifts that bolstered his interests.

The largest donation in the foundation’s history — a $264,231 gift to the Central Park Conservancy in 1989 — appeared to benefit Trump’s business: it paid to restore a fountain outside Trump’s Plaza Hotel. The smallest, a $7 foundation gift to the Boy Scouts that same year, appeared to benefit Trump’s family. It matched the amount required to enroll a boy in the Scouts the year that his son Donald Trump Jr. was 11.

The Eric Trump Foundation, which is named after the president's son, is still under investigation. Renamed Curetivity, Eric Trump's charity is reported to have has raised millions of dollars to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital but then spending hundreds of thousands of those dollars to use Trump Organization properties. Charity experts told Forbes, which first reported the alleged scheme, that the amount paid to the Trump Organization for a golf tournament fundraiser for St. Jude’s "defy any reasonable cost."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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