epa06573242 US President Donald J. Trump attends a meeting with leaders from the steel and aluminum manufacturing industries in the cabinet Room of the White...
JIM LO SCALZO

Trump tries and fails to defend his scandal-plagued ‘charity’

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/18/18, 9:00 PM ET

Corruption allegations force Trump to dissolve charity foundation

Rachel Maddow reports on the New York attorney general forcing the Trump Foundation into dissolution as part of a lawsuit alleging that the charity was used for Trump’s own personal and political benefit.
Rachel Maddow reports on the New York attorney general forcing the Trump Foundation into dissolution as part of a lawsuit alleging that the charity was used for Trump’s own personal and political benefit.
As Rachel noted at the top of last night’s show, the scandal surrounding the Trump Foundation is intensifying in ways the president probably won’t like. Donald Trump’s ostensible “charity” is facing a rather serious lawsuit from the New York attorney general’s office, which alleges that the foundation has exhibited a “shocking pattern of illegality.”

That includes allegations of unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign and repeated willful self-dealing. As of yesterday, the foundation’s remaining assets will be distributed to charities approved by state officials, though the case against the entity continues.

And what a case it is. While a civil suit is helping drive the controversy, the case has elements that have been referred for potential criminal prosecution over questions related to election law and tax law, and possible state and federal crimes.

The president himself hasn’t said much about the matter, which made it notable that Trump published a trio of tweets on the subject this morning.

“The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years - with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc. Now, as usual, I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long running civil lawsuit started by sleazebag AG Eric Schneiderman, who has since resigned over horrific women abuse, when I wanted to close the Foundation so as not to be in conflict with politics.

“Shady Eric was head of New Yorkers for Clinton, and refused to even look at the corrupt Clinton Foundation.

“In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people – a total double standard of ‘justice.’”

So to recap, Trump’s foundation is facing serious allegations of widespread wrongdoing. In response, the president believes New York Democrats are bad, the Clinton Foundation is bad, and he’s the victim of this drama.

I’m going to assume the president is unaware of just how damaging the case against his “charity” really is.

As regular readers know, the New York attorney general’s office has accused the Trump Foundation of being little more than a slush fund for Donald Trump, who stands accused of willfully misusing the charity’s resources for personal, business, and political expenses over the course of a decade.

The closer one looks, the more damaging the allegations appear. We learned two years ago about Trump using his charitable foundation’s money to buy giant portraits of himself. He also used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions, settle private-sector lawsuits, and support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions.

Two weeks after the Republican’s election, we learned that the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that “it violated a legal prohibition against ‘self-dealing,’ which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.”

Making matters slightly worse, the president has been caught lying about all of this, arguing publicly that “all” of the money the foundation raised was “given to charity.” He added soon after that “100%” of the millions raised went to “wonderful charities.” Neither claim was consistent with reality – unless you believe Donald Trump is a “wonderful charity.”

Simon Maloy’s takeaway from the New York attorney general’s court filing awhile back continues to ring true: “This filing lays out absurd and flagrant corruption, and it makes clear not just that it was driven personally by Trump, but that he deliberately removed all safeguards and oversight that could have hindered his illegal behavior.”

Let’s also not overlook 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.”

The idea that Trump is feeling sorry for himself, convinced that he’s been treated unfairly in this case, is bonkers.