The Washington Post published a short but memorable sentence the other day: “Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation.”
This has the added benefit of being true. The president himself is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, which is a rough starting point, but it looks worse when we note that Trump’s campaign, private business, and inaugural committee have also faced investigations. Heck, even Trump University was credibly accused of fraud before the president settled the case (after promising he wouldn’t).
But I continue to believe the Trump Foundation’s scandal is the underappreciated controversy of the Trump era. The so-called “charity” announced today that it will permanently close its doors.
The Trump Foundation – the charitable foundation started by President Donald Trump years before he became a presidential candidate, which New York’s top prosecutor said exhibited a “shocking pattern of illegality” – will dissolve according to a court filing.
The foundation will give away its assets to other non-profit organizations in the next 30 days, according to an agreement between state prosecutors and the Trump Foundation, according to an agreement reached between New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and the Trump Foundation.
It does not stop the lawsuit by AG’s office has filed against the foundation, which was formed in 1987 and that action will continue.
For those looking for some kind accountability, the fact that the scrutiny will continue is itself important – because the scope and scale of the alleged wrongdoing is simply amazing.
Circling back to our previous coverage, the New York attorney general’s office in June accused the Trump Foundation of being little more than a slush fund, which, among other things, made illegal in-kind contributions for Trump’s campaign.
The scope of the legal issues raised by the New York court filing is quite broad. There are, for example, questions surrounding the president and his family allegedly running a fraudulent charitable entity. There are additional questions about violations of federal election law, which appear to have been quite flagrant.
There’s also the fact that the president personally signed federal tax returns – under penalty of perjury – swearing that his foundation wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes, and we now know there’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests it was used for both.
Jenny Johnson Ware, a criminal tax attorney in Chicago, told the New York Times in June, “People have gone to prison for stuff like this, and if I were representing someone with facts like this, assuming the facts described in this petition are true, I would be very worried about an indictment.”
As Rachel has noted on the show, the New York Times also reported that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance “has opened an investigation into whether the Donald J. Trump Foundation violated state tax laws, a move that could lead to a criminal referral for possible prosecution.”
It’s against this backdrop that Trump’s lawyers have tried to make this case go away. To date, those efforts have not gone well.
Postscript: It’s worth emphasizing that dissolving the Trump Foundation was the charity’s idea. The authorities delayed that request until a thorough review of the foundation’s finances was complete.