ALBANY — The New York Supreme Court ordered President Donald J. Trump to pay $2 million in damages for improperly using charitable assets to intervene in the 2016 presidential primaries.
The news came Thursday, as New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the award as part of the state’s lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its directors — Mr. Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.
“The Trump Foundation has shut down, (and) funds that were illegally misused are being restored, the president will be subject to ongoing supervision by my office, and the Trump children had to undergo compulsory training to ensure this type of illegal activity never takes place again,” said James. “The court’s decision, together with the settlements we negotiated, are a major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain.”
“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,” James continued.
The lawsuit was filed in June 2018, and charged the foundation’s directors with ignoring their oversight duties under New York’s charity laws and demonstrating how Mr. Trump repeatedly used foundation money for his own personal, business, and political interests — including the unlawful coordination with his 2016 presidential campaign.
The suit alleged that Trump used publicly raised funds to demonstrate his generosity in order to attract votes.
In a statement Thursday evening, Trump said “the New York Attorney General is deliberately mischaracterizing this settlement for political purposes.”
“Every penny of the $19 million raised by the Trump Foundation went to hundreds of great charitable causes, with almost no expenses,” Trump said. “In fact, the court rejected the AG’s frivolous request for statutory penalties, interest and other damages.”
“It has been four years of politically motivated harassment,” Trump continued. “Attorney General Letitia James does not acknowledge that we gave 100 percent of the funds to great charities (and) refuses to investigate the Clinton Foundation with all of its problems.”
Trump noted that this lawsuit found “some small technical violations, such as not keeping board minutes.”
James said Trump and his campaign spent $500,000 at a campaign rally in the days leading up to the first primary election in the nation, the Iowa caucuses, then took credit for all $2.8 million in grants the foundation made.
“Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation and that waste occurred to the Foundation,” said Justice Saliann Scarpulla. “Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the fundraiser; allowing his campaign, instead of the foundation, to direct distribution of the funds; and using the fundraiser and distribution of the funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”
In total, the Office of the Attorney General has entered into four stipulation agreements as part of this settlement.
The first stipulation took effect in December 2018 when the Trump Foundation agreed to shutter its doors and dissolve under court supervision.
In October 2019, the Office of the Attorney General entered three additional stipulations.
One stipulation ensures that the foundation’s remaining assets will go to reputable charities approved by Attorney General James and that have no connection to Mr. Trump or his family members.
Another stipulation ensures that Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump received training on the duties of officers and directors of charities so that they cannot allow the illegal activity they oversaw at the Trump Foundation to take place again, James said.
The third stipulation includes 19 paragraphs of factual admissions by Trump and the Foundation of illegal activity, James said.
Among those, James said, Trump admitted that the foundation’s board of directors — of which he was chair — failed to meet, failed to provide oversight over the foundation, and failed to adopt legally required policies and procedures.
Trump also admitted that these failures “contributed to the foundation’s participation” in seven related party transactions described in the settlement document and in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, James said.
The $1.78 million in assets currently being held by the Trump Foundation, along with the $2 million in damages to be paid by Mr. Trump, will be disbursed equally to eight charities: Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, United Negro College Fund, United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.