Trump Foundation: Sloppy, or illegal?
It’s now official: The Trump Foundation is “basically a scam,” said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. A lawsuit filed by the New York State Attorney General’s office accuses the charitable nonprofit of being “an empty shell” that has engaged in “persistently illegal conduct.” Among the alleged transgressions are the use of $100,000 in charitable funds to settle a lawsuit against Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, $264,000 to renovate a fountain outside Trump Plaza Hotel, $30,000 for two portraits of Trump, and, believe it or not, $7 to cover the billionaire’s son’s Boy Scouts registration fee. E-mails show that $2.8 million raised by the foundation for military veterans in 2016 was handed over to then–campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for disbursal, which the suit calls an “illegal in-kind contribution to the campaign.” Trump’s violations of laws governing charities are almost too “buffoonishly sloppy” to be believed, said Francis Wilkinson in Bloomberg.com. Just imagine what special counsel Robert Mueller is finding as he digs into Trump’s shady finances and secretive dealings with Russia.
“The moral of this story is that the Donald J. Trump Foundation was a bad idea,” said Peter Reilly in Forbes.com. The foundation’s board, consisting mostly of Trump’s older children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, hasn’t met since 1999. That means the charitable organization “was little more than a checkbook” that Trump could sign at will, with no skilled oversight or legal advice. Most of the money did go to legitimate charities, and this mess could have been avoided if the Trump kids and their CFO had “sat down for an hour every year and had some minutes of their deliberation typed up.” Trump’s “self-dealing” was ugly, but that’s a civil transgression, not a criminal one, said The Economist in an editorial. It’s hard to imagine violations of charity law will clear the bar of impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Nonetheless, Trump should be worried, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. The New York attorney general has referred her findings to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission as potential violations of federal criminal law. Throughout his business and political careers, Trump has frequently bent or broken the rules. Since he arrived at the White House, the “circus-like atmosphere of his presidency” has cloaked evidence of his “shamelessness and corruption” from public scrutiny. But this lawsuit suggests that “Trump cannot outrun them altogether.”