President Donald Trump allegedly turned his charitable foundation into a wing of his White House campaign, according to a Thursday court filing by New York’s attorney general.
State Attorney General Letitia James filed the 37-page lawsuit, which seeks $2.8 million in restitution. The suit also requests an order banning Trump, as well as Donald Trump, Jr. Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, from operating any charities in New York for 10 years.
According to the Associated Press, the filing is in response to an earlier court submission from the foundation’s lawyers, who contend that the lawsuit against the charity is “both flimsy and politically motivated.”
News of this suit follows a December 2018 decision to dismantle the Donald J. Trump Foundation, as well as a Feb. 28 call by Rep. Maxine Waters to investigate the foundation as part of the probe she is leading into the president’s finances.
“I think that’s an area that should be looked at because I think the foundation has been used by him to avoid paying taxes,” Waters told Politico.
The lawsuit alleges the foundation’s involvement in a Trump maneuver leading up to the Iowa caucuses in 2016 broke rules barring charities from getting involved in political campaigns.
Instead of attending the final Republican primary candidate debate hosted by Fox News, Trump held a rally at the same time as the debate. During the rally, he called on people to donate to veterans charities. The foundation allegedly acted as a pass-through for people who heeded his call for donations, the lawsuit says.
James, a Democrat, told AP the evidence of banned coordination between campaign officials and the foundation includes deposition testimony from Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg and emails he exchanged with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
While no statement regarding the filing has been released, in past comments, foundation lawyers have said the lawsuit “ignored the charity’s philanthropic work.”
In addition to James’ court filing, a New York appellate court ruled Thursday that former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos can proceed with a defamation lawsuit filed against Trump.
The decision means the president may have to sit for a sworn deposition, which is currently scheduled for June, ABC News reported. The New York State Appellate Division’s First Department rejected Trump’s notion that the case should not proceed until he leaves office, because as a sitting president, he was immune to a lawsuit brought in state court.