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Trump pays $2 million in damages ordered by judge over misuse of charity funds, according to NY attorney general

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/10/2019 David Fahrenthold
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Trump listens during a roundtable on school choice in the White House Monday. © Evan Vucci/AP President Trump listens during a roundtable on school choice in the White House Monday.

President Trump has paid $2 million in court-ordered damages for misusing funds in a tax-exempt charity he controlled, the New York attorney general said Tuesday.

The payment was ordered last month by a New York state judge in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York attorney general, who alleged the president had illegally used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, pay off his businesses’ legal obligations and help his 2016 campaign.

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The money was split among eight charities, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). The charities were the Army Emergency Relief, the 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 U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to the statement. 

In addition, Trump agreed to distribute the remaining $1.8 million left in the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the same eight charities. In all, each charity received $476,140.41.

“Funds have finally gone where they deserve — to eight credible charities,” James said in the 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.”

In a statement, attorneys for Trump said: “The legacy of the Trump Foundation — which gave away many millions to those in need at virtually no cost — is secure.” They did not answer a reporter’s query about whether Trump intended to count the court-ordered $2 million payment on his taxes as a charitable deduction.

The payments bring an end to the life of the Trump Foundation, which Trump started in 1987 to give away proceeds from his book “the Art of the Deal.” It went nearly dormant during Trump’s lean years in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, Trump began to use the charity in ways that benefited himself or his businesses, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit. He used the charity’s cash to buy paintings of himself and sports memorabilia and to pay $258,000 in legal settlements for his for-profit clubs.

Charity leaders are barred from using their nonprofits’ money for personal benefit.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, Pamela Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies, despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

The New York attorney general’s suit drew heavily on reporting by The Washington Post during the 2016 election.

Now, the foundation will be shuttered. The consequences of this case will linger for Trump. Under the terms of the settlement, he has agreed to special supervision if he ever returns to charity work in New York.

david.fahrenthold@washpost.com

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