NY attorney general: Trump pays $2 million in court-ordered damages over charity fund misuse

By DAVID A. FAHRENTHOLD | The Washington Post | Published: December 10, 2019

President Donald Trump has paid $2 million in court-ordered damages for misusing funds in a tax-exempt charity he controlled, the New York Attorney General said Tuesday.

The payment was ordered last month by a New York state judge in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York Attorney General, who alleged that Trump illegally had used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, to pay off his businesses’ legal obligations, and to help his 2016 campaign.

The money was split among eight charities, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat. The charities were the Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to the statement.

In addition, Trump agreed to distribute the remaining $1.8 million left in the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the same eight charities. In all, each charity received $476,140.41.

“Funds have finally gone where they deserve — to eight credible charities,” James said in the statement. “My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States.”

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The payments bring an end to the life of the Trump Foundation, a small charity that Trump started in 1987, to give away proceeds from his book, “The Art of the Deal.” It went nearly dormant during Trump’s lean years in the 1990s.

Then, in the 2000s, Trump began to use the charity in ways that benefited himself or his businesses, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit. He used the charity’s cash to buy paintings of himself and sports memorabilia, and to pay $258,000 in legal settlements for his for-profit clubs.

Charity leaders are barred from using their nonprofits’ money for personal benefit.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi — a Republican — and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

The New York Attorney General’s suit drew heavily on reporting by The Washington Post during the 2016 election.

Now, the foundation will be shuttered. But the consequences of this case will linger for Trump. Under the terms of the settlement, he has agreed to special supervision if he ever returns to charity work in New York.