A New York Supreme Court judge has denied a motion by President Trump and his adult children to dismiss charges of breach of fiduciary duty, illegal electioneering, waste, and self-dealing by the Trump Foundation. Lawyers for the Trumps argued that a sitting president could not be sued, but Justice Saliann Scarpulla shot down the argument, sending the case to trial.
If they lose the case, President Trump could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5.6 million personally, in addition to the entire Board’s liability of up to $2.8 million in restitution for an illegal campaign fundraiser held by the Trump Foundation. His adult children, Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric are also defendants in the case as former Board members.
New York’s Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood brought the case against the Trump Foundation for breach of fiduciary duty, self-dealing and violations of its corporate charter restricting it to act as a 501(c)3 charity under rules set out by the IRS that forbid political activities. She celebrated the judge’s ruling that allows the case to move forward in a press release:
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“As we detailed in our petition earlier this year, the Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”
“There are rules that govern private foundations — and we intend to enforce them, no matter who runs the foundation.”
Today’s decision by Justice Saliann Scarpulla became the first lump of coal in Donald Trump’s Christmas stocking, which fittingly arrived on Black Friday. In an extra kick in the teeth, Justice Scarpulla denied the President’s request to open discovery, which would have opened the door for him to pursue a reciprocal witch hunt against the New York Attorney General’s office.
Trump’s attorneys lost their motion to dismiss on five of the six counts in the case, with the sixth charge being a moot request for an injunction to keep the defunct charity from operating, which Justice Scarpulla deemed unnecessary since the President and his family agreed that they must dissolve the foundation.
Amongst the most explosive allegations is that Donald Trump’s deployment of the Trump Foundation as a campaign vehicle to raise $5.6 million illegally in Iowa before the state’s crucial primary was illegal electioneering. Trump and his family face fines and restitution for the fundraiser because it happened in the last three years.
That’s why NY AG Underwood made federal criminal referrals in June related to this case to both the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Elections Commission, which could be investigated by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
But Underwood’s complaint includes illegal self-dealing by Donald Trump dating back to 2007, when he used the foundation’s cash to settle lawsuits by his private business.
Normally, a three or six-year statute of limitations would apply to those violations, but the NY AG successfully argued that the “continuing wrong doctrine” applies to Trump’s illegal use of his charity since they allege a continuous and pervasive failure to operate the foundation.
That means the President will also be held liable for the illegal donation he gave Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi to put the breaks on her state’s criminal investigation of his fraudulent Trump University scam.
The President’s lawyers ironically begged the judge to overturn the precedent of Clinton vs. Jones, which White House senior advisor Kellanne Conway’s husband won in the late 1990s at the US Supreme Court and decreed that presidents must be held accountable in civil court for their own private actions.
They also alleged bias by the New York Attorney General and demanded to use the court proceeding to investigate the investigators through the discovery process, but Justice Scarpulla quashed their dreams of hindering the case in a footnote at the very bottom of her ruling calling Trump’s demands “irrelevant” and calculated to “unnecessarily delay the proceeding.”
The Trump family was further ordered to answer the New York Attorney General’s complaint within 45 days, which means that the case could be resolved in the next few months.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has already indicated that he will direct the state to seek criminal charges against the Trump Foundation once the NY AG’s civil case is concluded.
Here’s the ruling against the Trump Foundation: