Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. 
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Trump Foundation confronts yet another controversy

Over the weekend, Donald Trump was asked whether he’s “confident that the Trump Foundation has followed all charitable rules and laws.” The Republican presidential hopeful responded, “Well, I hope so.”

Given the multiple controversies surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation, it wasn’t exactly reassuring that the GOP candidate himself isn’t certain.

It also doesn’t help that the latest revelations only add to the controversy. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold once again moved the ball forward on this story on Monday, reporting on Trump directing companies that owed him money to instead pay his charitable foundation, to the tune of about $2.3 million. In each instance, Trump was required to pay taxes on the income, and it’s not clear that he did.

In fact, when the Washington Post initially asked about this, Trump’s campaign “denied that any of the transactions had taken place.” Later, Trump aides reversed course and provided partial answers, but left many questions unanswered.

And just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, a Trump adviser talked to MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson yesterday and the story took an unintentionally funny turn. Fahrenthold summarized the latest.
An adviser to Donald Trump on Tuesday offered a new explanation for why a portrait of Trump — paid for by the Republican nominee’s charitable foundation — wound up on display at a Trump-owned golf resort in Florida.

Trump, the adviser said, was actually doing his charity a favor, by “storing” its painting on the wall of a bar at Trump National Doral, outside Miami.
This is probably the funniest argument the Trump campaign has ever come up with.

Let’s recap for a minute. A couple of years ago, Trump used foundation money to buy a $10,000 portrait of himself. Because he used charitable funds, instead of his own money, Trump was legally required to find a charitable use for the giant portrait. Otherwise, the purchase would constitute “self-dealing,” which is illegal.

But by all appearances, Trump didn’t find a charitable use for the painting, but rather, put it on the wall of one of his golf resorts.

Yesterday on MSNBC, Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn argued, in all seriousness, “There are IRS rules which specifically state that when a foundation has an item, an individual can store those items – on behalf of the foundation – in order to help it with storage costs.”

Got that? Trump used foundation money to buy a painting of himself, and now he’s “storing” it – on the wall of a restaurant within a golf resort – as a favor.

“You’re telling me that that is storage, for Mr. Trump?” MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson asked. “Right, of course, he’s doing a good thing for his foundation,” Epshteyn said.

Brett Kappel, a lawyer who advises nonprofit groups, told the Washington Post, “It’s hard to make an IRS auditor laugh. But this would do it.”