Donald Trump was charged Thursday by New York State for using the money from his foundation for personal purposes, an attack that touches the heart of the affairs of the US President, immediately described as “ridiculous” by the latter.
The civil suit filed Thursday by the prosecutor of the State of New York adds to the many legal troubles of the president, already sued by two women with whom he would have had connections, and facing a vast investigation by the prosecutor Robert Mueller on possible links between his campaign team and Russia.
While prosecutor Barbara Underwood has indicated that she has warned the IRS and the Federal Election Commission of alleged violations that they too may want to investigate, the case should not be a decisive factor for those who advocate impeachment proceedings.
It does, however, directly affect the management of the affairs of the President and the New York company that oversees its assets, the Trump Organization, located in the Trump Tower, on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
While Democrats have for months accused Donald Trump of conflicts of interest for not having sold his shares in the Trump Organization, the complaint highlights the interweaving between the foundation and his company, which mainly manages hotels and clubs. golf, in the United States and abroad.
The summons asserts that the foundation, created in 1987 but to which Trump had not given any more money since 2008, had no own employee.
No employee, no control
Its Trump board of trustees only existed on paper, and its expenses were paid directly by the Trump Organization, not according to their charitable purpose, but solely in terms of the tax status of the recipient. check.
Without control, Mr. Trump would have used the foundation to pay personal expenses, promote his hotels or golf clubs, and even weigh on his election campaign, which is strictly prohibited by law.
The complaint cited a January 28, 2016 fundraising event in the state of Iowa, touted as a charitable operation for veterans when it had all the attributes of an election meeting. This could be a violation of the rules on campaign finance.
She also cites a $ 10,000 payment on behalf of a youth-helping association with learning difficulties, which allegedly paid for a painting of Donald Trump.
“The Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook to pay the expenses of Mr. Trump and his businesses to non-profit organizations, regardless of their purpose and legality,” Underwood said. .
She launched an action to dissolve the foundation and demand the return of some $ 2.8 million.
She also demands that the US president be banned from running a nonprofit organization in New York for 10 years, while his children would be banned from directing them for a year.
As striking as these accusations may be for a sitting president, they are not new.
The Donald Trump Foundation investigation began in June 2016, nearly six months before his election to the White House, after revelations from the Washington Post that put the finger on dubious payments.
On Thursday, the president, who was celebrating his 72nd birthday, counterattacked as soon as the summons was announced.
He questioned the prosecutor’s motives, named a month ago, to continue the case, noting that even his pro-Hillary Clinton predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, “had never had the courage to pursue this ridiculous case” .
Trump also accused “rogue democrats” in New York state of “doing everything to sue him.”
He also assured that he would refuse to settle this case amicably, as he settled other civil assignments.
A Trump Organization spokeswoman, Amanda Miller, has also long denounced “the obvious political motives” of the prosecutor’s office, recalling that he never considered it necessary to investigate the powerful Clinton-led foundation. , also located in New York State, as requested by Trump.
She also pointed out that the foundation announced in December 2016 that it intends to dissolve and donate its remaining funds – more than $ 1.7 million – to charitable organizations. Both dissolution and the dispersion of funds were blocked by the investigation.