President Donald Trump must pay a $2 million judgment for improperly using his Trump Foundation charity to further his 2016 presidential campaign, a New York state judge ruled Thursday.
The order appears to bring to an end the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the president and three of his oldest children over the now-shuttered foundation, which the attorney general said had engaged in repeated wrongdoing.
“Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more,” then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleged in a statement late last year.
In her seven-page ruling, New York Supreme Court Justice Salliann Scarpulla wrote, “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.”
The judge was referring to a Jan. 28, 2016, event Trump held in Des Moines, Iowa, that he’d billed as a fundraiser for veterans. The event was counter-programming for a GOP presidential debate on Fox. Trump was feuding with the network at the time.
The event wound up raising $2.8 million, according to the judge, some of which Trump distributed in the form of giant checks at campaign rallies before the Iowa caucuses.
“The Attorney General has argued that I should award damages for waste of the entire $2,823,000 that was donated directly to the Foundation at the Fundraiser,” Scarpulla noted. “In opposition, Mr. Trump notes that the Foundation ultimately disbursed all of the Funds to charitable organizations.”
Taking “into consideration that the Funds did ultimately reach their intended destinations, i.e., charitable organizations supporting veterans, I award damages on the breach of fiduciary duty/waste claim against Mr. Trump in the amount of $2,000,000,” she wrote.
The ruling noted that the money would go to eight nonprofit organizations, including the Children’s Aid Society, United Negro College Fund and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Trump responded to the decision in a tweet attacking Democrats and questioning why the Clinton Foundation was not also under investigation.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Trump Foundation said the organization “is pleased to donate an additional $2 million” to the groups.
“Following the 2016 presidential election, the Trump Foundation publicly announced its intention to voluntarily dissolve and distribute all of its remaining funds to charity,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, that donation was delayed due to the Attorney General’s politically motivated lawsuit.”
The spokesperson also said “we are pleased that the court” rejected the attorney general’s “frivolous request for statutory penalties, interest and other damages.”
The state attorney general’s office struck the deal to dissolve the foundation in December of last year. As part of the settlement, which called for the remaining $1.7 million in Trump Foundation money to be paid out to the same nonprofits, the two sides agreed that Scarpulla would determine the amount of damages Trump should pay, which she decided in Thursday’s ruling.
The settlement also included an admission from Trump that he personally misused foundation funds and called for mandatory training requirements for the now-defunct foundation’s directors — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.
In addition to the $2 million, court documents show Trump also agreed to repay the foundation the $11,525 in foundation money the billionaire used to pay for two auction items at Susan G. Komen charitable benefit in 2012. Those items were a Denver Broncos helmet signed by then-quarterback Tim Tebow and a Tebow jersey.
“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,” current state Attorney General Letitia James said in a 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.”
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