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Trump Foundation tries to defend itself from mounting scandal

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)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.

One of Donald Trump's most serious and most underappreciated scandals involves his controversial charitable foundation. As regular readers know, 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.

As Rachel recently noted on the show, the New York Times  reported two weeks ago 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."

Late last week, we saw the first formal response from Trump lawyers about the allegations.

Lawyers for President Trump's charitable foundation pushed back aggressively against the New York State attorney general's office in court papers on Thursday, calling a lawsuit against the charity a political attack motivated by the former attorney general's "record of antipathy" against Mr. Trump.

This ... isn't smart.

In the court filing, Trump's lawyers went on and on, condemning former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), attacking his motives, and even questioning why Schneiderman didn't target Hillary Clinton's charitable foundation.

The trouble is, Schneiderman, who resigned in early May, isn't responsible for the allegations against the Trump Foundation. His successor, acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed the case in mid-June.

Trump's lawyers also shrugged off the aforementioned substantive allegations, which are more serious than the attorneys seem prepared to admit.

The New Yorker's Adam Davidson recently reported on a court proceeding 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.

I realize there are more than a few scandals surrounding Team Trump right now, but it'd be a mistake to overlook this one.