Over the holiday weekend, Donald Trump tried to generate some fresh interest in the Clinton Foundation, as if Hillary Clinton, who left public office nearly six years ago, is still worthy of the political world’s obsession. Of far greater interest is the Republican president’s own foundation.
A New York judge on Friday denied a request from President Donald Trump and his family members to dismiss a lawsuit against them and the Trump Foundation alleging that the charitable foundation violated state and federal laws for “more than a decade.”
In her ruling, Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York state Supreme Court shot down an argument from the Trump family’s attorneys that the case should be dismissed because the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution suggests “a sitting president may not be sued.”
Scarpulla also rejected Trump’s argument that the state court lacked jurisdiction over the president in this case.
I can appreciate why the panoply of Trump scandals can seem overwhelming, but this one really is extraordinary,
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, peddling a series of arguments in a New York courtroom, each of which were rejected late last week.
The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson recently reported on the court proceedings that occurred before Friday’s announcement in which “the judge in the case, Saliann Scarpulla, made a series of comments and rulings from the bench that hinted – well, all but screamed - that she believes the Trump family has done some very bad things.”
The judge has urged the Trumps to settle. The president has said he won’t.
The longer this case exists, the greater the threat it will pose to the president.