8 Nov 2019

Trump ordered to pay $US2m for misusing charity funds

3:04 pm on 8 November 2019

A New York state judge has ordered US President Donald Trump to pay $US2 million ($NZ3.1m) for misusing his charitable foundation, resulting in funds being used to advance his 2016 presidential campaign.

US President Donald Trump speaks after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant at Joint Systems Manufacturing in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Eight charities will receive a share of $US2 million Donald Trump has been ordered to pay as a result of a court case in New York over donations to his charitable foundation. Photo: AFP / Saul Loeb

Justice Saliann Scarpulla, of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, directed the payment to eight non-profits, in connection with a lawsuit by the state's attorney general against the president and three of his adult children over the now-dissolved Donald J Trump Foundation.

The White House has so far not issued any comment. A lawyer for the Trumps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The attorney general, Letitia James, said her office has also reached agreements with the foundation and its directors to end the June 2018 lawsuit, which was filed by her predecessor, Barbara Underwood.

Ms James said Mr Trump admitted to "personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation," which agreed last December to dissolve, and accepted limits on his activities if he created a new charity. Ms James also said Mr Trump's children, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka, agreed to "mandatory training" on the duties of charity officials.

"The court's decision, together with the settlements we negotiated, are a major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain," Ms James said in a statement.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference, June 11, 2019 in New York City.

New York attorney general Letitia James says the US president has admitted "personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation". Photo: AFP

Ms Underwood had filed suit after a 21-month probe that she said uncovered "extensive unlawful political coordination" between the Trump Foundation and Mr Trump's campaign. The lawsuit sought to recoup $2.82m donated to the foundation in a 2016 Iowa fundraiser for military veterans, but which Ms Underwood said Mr Trump allowed his campaign to control.

Judge Scarpulla agreed with the attorney general's office that Mr Trump had breached his fiduciary duty to the foundation.

"Mr Trump's fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the funds, and using the fundraiser and distribution of the funds to further Mr. Trump's political campaign," she wrote.

The judge said that because the money ultimately went to support veterans, Mr Trump should pay just $2m, without interest, rather than the entire $2.82m. She rejected Ms James' request for punitive damages, citing Mr Trump's agreement to take steps to avoid a recurrence.

The $2m is expected to go to Army Emergency Relief, the Children's Aid Society, City Meals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha's Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of the National Capital Area and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

- Reuters

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