Trump Can’t Close Foundation While Under Investigation
December 27, 2016 Andy Segedin
President-elect Donald Trump announced that he intends to dissolve his Donald J. Trump Foundation “to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President.” But, an ongoing investigation into the charity by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says not so fast.
“The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” an AG spokesperson said. “The Foundation’s fundraising activities remain suspended following the AG’s notice of violation earlier this year.”
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Hope Hicks, spokesperson for Trump, said that the president-elect’s team is sticking with a weekend statement reaffirming Trump’s intentions to dissolve the charity and that there will be no further comment at this time.
Schneiderman’s interest in the foundation dates back to at least June 9 when the office sent a letter to the foundation questioning a $25,000 donation made in 2013 to a group named And Justice For All. The group had supported Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2013 campaign. Bondi, at the time, was deciding whether to pursue an investigation into Trump University but never did so.
Allen Weisselberg, the foundation’s treasurer, attributed the donation to “a case of mistaken identity involving organizations with the same name.” In response to Schneiderman’s letter, the foundation provided proof of reimbursement for the gift as well as proof of a $2,500 excise tax paid.
The office opted to pursue an investigation into the Woodbury, N.Y.-based foundation for “not just one transaction, it’s a broader concern” a spokesperson said at the time. On Sept. 30, the office prohibited the foundation from soliciting donations in the state due to a failure to register with the office for the year 2016 as required.
The foundation reported year-end assets of $1.1 million on its 2015 Internal Revenue Service Form 990 and total contributions paid out of $896,380. Leading recipients of the foundation were Comic Relief, Inc. of New York City, Caring for Military Families of Washington, D.C., and Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation of Tuckahoe, N.Y. with each receiving $100,000.
Trump defended the charity from criticism late Monday evening on Twitter, writing “The DJT Foundation, unlike most foundations, never paid fees, rent, salaries, or any expenses. 100% of money goes to wonderful charities!” The president-elect also touted the millions he said he had given and raised for the foundation over the years. Katy Tur, who has covered Trump and his campaign for NBC News, shot back at Trump’s claims saying on Twitter “This isn’t true.”
The Trump Corporation was the top supporter of the foundation in 2015 with $566,370 contributed, but multiple reports have found that Trump himself has not given individually to the foundation since 2008. Trump and the foundation have also been under fire for expenditures including the purchase of a portrait of Trump and a football helmet signed by former Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow.
The foundation is currently under “moderate concern advisory” by watchdog organization Charity Navigator.