New York's attorney general on Thursday sued U.S. President DonaldTrump, three of his children and his namesake foundation, alleging "persistently illegal conduct" at the nonprofit including support for Trump's 2016 campaign.
Barbara Underwood, the attorney general, asked a New York state judge to dissolve the Donald J.Trump Foundation, and impose bans on Trump, his sons Donald Jr and Eric, and his daughter from holding leadership roles in New York charities.
Underwood said her office's 21-month investigation, begun under her predecessor Eric Schneiderman, uncovered "extensive unlawful political coordination" by the foundation with Trump's campaign, as well as "repeated and willful self-dealing" to benefit Trump's personal and business interests.
The complaint cited an incident where Trump "personally directed his accounting staff" to use foundation funds to pay off an issue at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Donald Trump personally directed his Foundation funds to be used to settle a lawsuit related to Mar A Lago. Here is the receipt
The Republican president attacked the lawsuit in a series of tweets that blamed Democratic politicians in his home state.
"The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000," Trump wrote. "I won't settle this case!"
The Trump Foundation issued a statement criticizing the lawsuit as "politics at its very worst" and accusing the attorney general of holding its $1.7 million in remaining funds "hostage for political gain."
The lawsuit adds to legal problems affecting Trump, including a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Trump and Russia have denied there was any collusion.
The lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan is seeking $2.8 million of restitution plus penalties, a 10-year ban on Trump serving as a director of a New York nonprofit, and one-year bans for his children.
"As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose of legality," Underwood said in a statement. "That is not how private foundations should function."
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama)