A lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney Barbara Underwood that accuses President Donald Trump of misusing his charitable organization for his own personal and political gain has been allowed to move to trial by state Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla, according to ABC News.
Underwood filed the action earlier this year accusing President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump of “extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for nonprofit foundations.” The Trump Foundation’s legal team responded that President Trump can’t be sued while he is in office, the family didn’t knowingly do anything wrong, and that the suit was brought solely for the purpose of political agitation.
Judge Scarpulla rejected those arguments in a 27-page ruling on Friday, noting that precedent has been set in a case earlier this year that President Trump is not protected from civil actions “related purely to unofficial conduct because he is President of the United States.” Judge Scarpulla believed that the plaintiff’s case against the Trump family was compelling enough to warrant a trial.
BREAKING: Donald J. Trump Foundation lawsuit is HUGE. Check out the 22-pages of legal docs submitted by the NY Attorney General's office. A fascinating & scary read. So many illegal business dealings! Would have posted sooner but I had to read it first. https://t.co/WK08kTTQwu
— James Kosur (@JamesKosur) June 14, 2018
Judge Scarpulla also rejected claims by the foundation’s legal team that the lawsuit should be dismissed as former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was an outspoken critic of President Trump and a political opponent who repeatedly engaged in “personal attacks” against the president. Judge Scarpulla rejected this argument by the defense on the grounds that Schneiderman wasn’t even in office when the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit charges that Trump Foundation funds were used to pay off the legal obligations of other Trump-owned companies, including a $100,000 payment to a charity that was mandated in another lawsuit. President Trump is also accused of using the foundation to advance his political ambitions, citing an Iowa fundraiser for veterans that seemed like a thinly-veiled campaign event. Additionally, the Trump campaign also directed the foundation on which charities it should support.
“We welcome Justice Scarpulla’s decision, which allows our suit to move forward,” Underwood said in a statement. “As we detailed in our petition earlier, 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.”
Lawyers for the Trump Foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.