A New York judge has ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million for persistently violating state charity laws as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The payment is the settlement – and thus the final resolution – in a case filed by the New York Attorney General’s Office after the Trump Foundation, during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, organised a fundraiser for military veterans and collected almost $3 million that was subsequently disbursed on the eve of the Iowa caucuses at the direction of then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Efe news reported on Thursday.
Judge Saliann Scarpulla ruled that the $2 million settlement must be personally paid by Trump for breaching his fiduciary duty to properly oversee the activities of the Trump Foundation.
“I direct Mr. Trump to pay the $2,000,000, which would have gone to the Foundation if it were still in existence, on a pro rata basis to the Approved Recipients,” Scarpulla wrote in her ruling.
The Foundation previously agreed to cease its operations and must pay the settlement to a group of nonprofit organizations.
On November 23, 2018, Scarpulla had refused to throw out the case launched the previous June against Trump, his children Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric and the foundation bearing his name after defence attorneys argued that a sitting president could not be sued in state court.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James confirmed in a statement an agreement according to which Trump would be fined for damages and improperly using the charitable donations for personal, political and business purposes, including legal settlements, campaign contributions and – in a move that, when it became public, was widely mocked – even to purchase a portrait of himself to hang at one of his hotels.
James wrote that Trump will remain subject to continuous supervision by her office and his childen had to submit to measures to ensure that this type of illegal activity never recurs.
She also wrote that the court decision, along with other agreements that her office is negotiating, were a significant victory in protecting charitable assets and holding accountable anyone who abuses charitable organisations for their personal benefit.
Trump’s attorneys argued that the lawsuit was politically motivated and all donations were used for charitable purposes according to law. Regarding the Trump portrait, the defence team claimed that the real estate mogul bid $10,000 of Foundation money on a portrait of himself at a 2014 charity auction merely to kick off the bidding, but when no one else would bid on the work the Foundation found itself forced to “buy” the painting.
Meanwhile, Trump has consistently attacked the lawsuit, blaming it on “sleazy New York Democrats.”
The $1.78 million in assets currently in the possession of the Trump Foundation, along with the $2 million that Trump will have to personally pay will be disbursed in equal measure to eight charitable organisations: Army Emergency Relief, 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 US Holocaust Memorial Museum.