Donald Trump has been ordered to pay a $2 million dollar settlement to a group of non-profit organizations that brought a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation for coordinating with his 2016 presidential campaign.
In a decision filed Thursday, New York State Justice Saliann Scarpulla found that "Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation," including by "allowing his campaign to orchestrate" a televised fundraiser ostensibly for the foundation in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 2016, and allowing the campaign to direct the distribution of the money raised from that event "to further Mr. Trump's political campaign." As part of the settlement, Trump also agreed to reimburse $11,525 to the foundation for its payment of auction items at a charitable benefit and to comply with certain restrictions.
This decision settles the question that has plagued President Trump since taking office; whether or not he had used money from his foundation that was earmarked for charitable purposes to enhance his political career. The New York Attorney General was also pursuing an injunction against Trump or any of his family sitting on the board of any other non-profits and for Trump to pay punitive damages, but the judge ruled against those terms.
The lawsuit, which was filed in June 2018, alleged that the President and his three eldest children broke federal and state campaign finance laws and abused the Donald J. Trump Foundation's tax-exempt status. According to the lawsuit, the Trumps allowed the foundation to be used "as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests."
The Foundation was dissolved under judicial supervision this past December. Though Trump was adamant about fighting the lawsuit, and had in fact tweeted about the case:
However, lawyers on both sides came to a resolution on the issue in October and the judge was given time to assess the penalties.
"The court's decision, together with the settlements we negotiated, are a major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain," Attorney General Letitia James said in a 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."
"We are pleased that the Court, in rejecting the Attorney General's frivolous request for statutory penalties, interest and other damages, recognized that every penny ever raised by the Trump Foundation has gone to help those most in need," said attorneys for the foundation, Alan Futerfas and Marc Mukasey. "Now that this matter is concluded, the Trump Foundation is proud to make this additional contribution."
The $2 million settlement will be divided into a series of non-profits including the Army Emergency Relief, Children's Aid Society, City Meals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha's Table, United Negro College Fund, United Way of Capital Area and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.