N.Y. Attorney General Files Suit Against Trump Foundation

11 hours ago
Originally published on June 14, 2018 11:59 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump is saying that he will not settle a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation. The New York attorney general announced this morning that it was suing the Trump Foundation over self-dealing. Bobby Allyn of NPR member station WHYY is in New York to tell us more about this. Hi there, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: All right. This is - sounds pretty extraordinary to have the attorney general of a state going after a sitting president in this way. So can you explain exactly what's happening?

ALLYN: Yeah. So this investigation began under now-disgraced former attorney general of New York, you know, Eric Schneiderman. And it's now in the hands of brand new New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. She's he's only been on the job, you know, for about a month. And she's alleging here that President Trump used his charitable foundation almost like a personal ATM. She's alleging campaign finance violations and other egregious types of self-dealing.

You know, the suit says that Trump used his foundation to bankroll his own legal bills, personal business expenses and even used it to pay for some bills from his presidential campaign. I mean, the AG saying here that, you know, Trump staffers were calling the shots on how this money was spent, and often, it had nothing to do with charity. And so the attorney general is trying to dissolve the foundation and hoping to shake the foundation for $2.8 million in restitution. That's the amount of money the AG says Trump's foundation illegally spent.

GREENE: Wow. OK. And it's not just the president who's named in this, it's some of his children as well, right?

ALLYN: Yeah, that's right. His three eldest children are also targeted and so are some individuals who are, you know, the directors of the foundation. And we have not heard yet a response from any of them, but we have heard from the president. He took to Twitter this morning and, you know, he called the lawsuit an effort by, quote, "the sleazy New York Democrats" to smear his foundation. And like you mentioned at the top, he said he will not be settling this case.

GREENE: Bobby, I know it's very early to be sifting through all of this. But, I mean, during the campaign there were a lot of questions raised and a lot of reporting on then-candidate Donald Trump's foundation. So do we know at this point if we're learning anything brand new or if this is just the attorney general saying a lot of what we knew, in their mind, is illegal?

ALLYN: Well, like I said, this investigation started a while ago under former AG Schneiderman. And, you know, we've kind of known for a while that there were a number of probes looking into alleged self-dealing. And, you know, this really puts a lot of meat on the bone. And it's important to note that, you know, not only is the AG here seeking nearly $3 million in restitution, but he's also trying to kick Trump off the charity completely and also block Trump's three eldest children from serving on the boards of nonprofits based in New York for an entire year as this investigation unfolds. So not only is this going to have wide sweeping implications for this particular charity but potentially dozens and dozens of nonprofits that are connected to Trump and the Trump family.

GREENE: So what happens now? What is next in this process?

ALLYN: So we need to wait for an official legal response from the Trump team. We're...

GREENE: Beyond just words from the president this morning.

ALLYN: Exactly, beyond just him taking to Twitter and responding. And we might get a better sense of what his defense looks like once we get some official legal documents, you know, outlining some of that. But yeah, this is like really brand new. So we don't really know what the next step is except we'll keep checking the docket. And once we know more, David, we'll definitely fill you in.

GREENE: OK. Bobby Allyn reporting for member station WHYY. He is joining us from New York. Bobby, we appreciate it.

ALLYN: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.