The Donald J. Trump Foundation, Explained


Why has President Trump’s charity faced years of legal scrutiny? And what does the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against it mean?

During a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa in January 2016, Mr. Trump presented a check to a veterans group.CreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

On Thursday, the New York State attorney general sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, charging it with “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

The lawsuit follows years of scrutiny of President Trump’s charitable activities and adds to the president’s extensive legal challenges, amid a continuing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

What is the Trump Foundation?

Mr. Trump established the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1987, when he was a New York City real estate mogul, with the stated mission of collecting and maintaining money “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes,” either directly or by donating to other organizations. It is a private, nonprofit corporation. In its most recent I.R.S. filing, reporting as of Dec. 31, 2016, it had approximately $1 million in assets.

Mr. Trump served as the foundation’s president from its start until Jan. 23, 2017, three days after he was inaugurated as president. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also stepped down from her position on the foundation’s board of directors. His sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are still members of the board.

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What does this mean for Mr. Trump?

The suit seeks to bar Mr. Trump from serving on the leadership of any charitable organization operating in New York for 10 years, and to bar his eldest children, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, for one year.

If successful, it would force Mr. Trump and the three children to pay $2.8 million in restitution and damages. It would also force Mr. Trump to repay the foundation for up to double the amount of benefits he obtained after July 1, 2014 — a sum of millions. And it would dissolve the Trump foundation and require it to cooperate with the attorney general’s office in disbursing any remaining funds it possesses.

(Mr. Trump had already announced his intention to dissolve the foundation, and he has already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016.)