A sharply worded New York Attorney General’s lawsuit filed Thursday against the Donald J. Trump Foundation asserting unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign stems from a $2.8 million Des Moines fundraiser held less than a week before Iowa’s 2016 Republican precinct caucuses.
The lawsuit alleges the charity’s “persistent illegal conduct” over more than a decade included unlawful political coordination, “repeated and willful self-dealing” transactions to benefit Donald Trump’s personal and business interests, as well as violations of basic legal obligations for nonprofit foundations.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is seeking to dissolve the Trump Foundation and obtain restitution of the $2.8 million. Further, she is asking the court to ban Trump from serving as a director of a nonprofit in that state for a decade, and bar for one year board members Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.
Underwood was promoted to attorney general only weeks ago, succeeding Eric Schneiderman after the Democrat resigned following allegations he had physically abused several romantic partners.
On Twitter, the president cited political motives and vowed to fight.
“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case! ...
“ ... Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”
The heart of the allegations stems from a Jan. 28, 2016, nationally televised fundraiser Trump held in Des Moines four days before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Feuding at the time with Fox News host Megyn Kelly — who previously challenged Trump on his treatment of women — the candidate decided to boycott the Fox News debate with his GOP rivals and stage his own event nearby at Drake University.
That event to raise money for veterans drew millions from wealthy friends and small-dollar donors, which went to the Trump Foundation.
But Underwood asserted in the suit that the funds were raised “in a manner designed to influence the 2016 presidential election at the direction and under the control of senior leadership of the Trump presidential campaign.”
She cited emails in which Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, directed which veterans’ charities should receive money.
At one point, Lewandowski emailed a foundation official to see if money could be ready to distribute during Trump’s last campaign events before the caucuses: “Is there any way we can make some disbursements this week while in Iowa? Specifically on Saturday,” Lewandowski wrote, in an email cited by Underwood.
Among the grant recipients were Central Iowa Shelter and Services, Puppy Jake Foundation and Support Siouxland Soldiers. Each received checks for $100,000.
Besides the big-money giveaway right before the caucuses, Trump illegally dipped into the charity to pay businesses’ creditors and to decorate one of his golf clubs with a portrait om himself.
Underwood said in the suit that the foundation’s board had not met in 19 years and that its treasurer didn’t even realize he was listed as being a board member for more than a decade until investigators told him.
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The Washington Post contributed to this report