The Trump Foundation — Republican nominee Donald Trump’s personal charitable foundation, which has reportedly operated illegally and for personal gain — has been issued a cease-and-desist order by the New York attorney general’s office.
“Based on information received by the Charities Bureau to date, the Trump Foundation was engaged in solicitation or fundraising activities in New York State in 2016, is not and was not registered … and was thus not permitted to engage in such activity during this period,” the order read.
New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman’s office issued the “notice of violation” to the Trump Foundation last Friday, ordering the organization stop all donation solicitations in New York because the foundation didn’t have the proper certification, according to the letter.
This cease-and-desist letter is the latest development in what has been a growing interest in the Trump Foundation’s inner dealings. The organization came under a lot of scrutiny after the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published an extensive report finding the organization did not have the proper certification to fundraise money in New York, and rarely operated charitably — using $285,000 from his charity to settle legal disputes and to buy multiple portraits of Trump himself.
According to the New York State Charities Database, there are no annual reports from the Trump Foundation dated past 2014.
As my colleague Matt Yglesias explained, the Trump Foundation was funded largely by contributions from “a range of Trump’s business partners, allowing him to parlay celebrity into securing credit for charity work”:
Some of the money seems to flow back into Trump’s pockets through his businesses, while other funds are used to punish his political enemies or try to gain new friends in the conservative movement.
At times the level of self-dealing becomes downright comical. It spent $20,000 on a portrait of Donald Trump, for example, and $12,000 on buying Trump an autographed Tim Tebow helmet. When Trump's Mar-a-Lago club racked up $120,000 in fines from the town of Palm Beach, Florida for violating a local ordinance regarding the height of flagpoles, Trump eventually settled the dispute by agreeing to a $100,000 donation to a veterans' charity — and then had his foundation rather than the club pay the tab.
The Trump campaign said they would not comment extensively on the recent developments in New York, as it is an “ongoing legal matter.” However, the campaign did raise questions over any partisan motives behind the cease-and-desist letter.
“While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind A.G. Schneiderman’s investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation,” Trump’s spokesperson Hope Hicks said in response to the letter, according to the New York Times.
Here is an in-depth explanation into the most recent — and surprisingly shady — findings surrounding the Trump Foundation.