Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty

Legal case against Trump’s ‘charity’ comes into sharp focus

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/14/19, 9:20 PM ET

Zervos ruling clears path for new case against Trump Foundation

Rachel Maddow explains how the court victory for Summer Zervos in her lawsuit against Donald Trump has also made way for New York State Attorney General Letitia James to move ahead with a case against the Trump Foundation.
Rachel Maddow explains how the court victory for Summer Zervos in her lawsuit against Donald Trump has also made way for New York State Attorney General Letitia James to move ahead with a case against the Trump Foundation.
Donald Trump’s political operation is under investigation. So is his business. So is his inaugural committee. The president himself is the subject of an ongoing probe. But let’s also not forget the investigation into Trump’s charitable foundation.

It’s true, of course, that the Republican’s so-called “charity” permanently closed its doors a few months ago, after having been accused of engaging in a “shocking pattern of illegality.” But as Rachel noted on the show last night, the foundation can be both shut down and still held to account for its alleged misdeeds. As the Associated Press reported late yesterday:

Insider testimony, emails and other evidence show President Donald Trump turned his charitable foundation into a wing of his White House campaign, New York’s attorney general said in a new court filing Thursday.

State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, detailed her case against the foundation in a 37-page court filing in a lawsuit that seeks $2.8 million in restitution and an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from running any New York charities for 10 years.

That $2.8 million in restitution doesn’t include an additional multi-million fine the state attorney general’s office is seeking as a civil penalty for the foundation’s alleged misdeeds.

And the list of those alleged misdeeds is not short. New York’s AG argued yesterday that there’s evidence of the president using his foundation “for his own benefit and benefit of entities in which he had a financial interest.” Trump is accused of, among other things, using charitable assets to pay for portraits of himself, make political donations, pay for advertisements for Trump Hotels, settle lawsuits involving his business, and improperly intervening in the 2016 election.

The state attorney general’s court filing added that the alleged misuse of the charity was “willful and intentional.” Trump was “aware of” the legal limits, Letitia James added, but he ignored those limits anyway.

As regular readers may recall, let’s also not forget 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 last year, “People have gone to prison for stuff like this.”

Donald Trump and Scandals

Legal case against Trump's 'charity' comes into sharp focus