- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
- Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has escalated the state’s legal battle with President Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation.
- Cuomo opened the door to a possible criminal case against the foundation.
- Acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a civil suit in June against Trump, his three eldest children, and the charity.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has escalated the state’s legal battle with President Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation, opening the door to a potential criminal case against the nonprofit.
“At Gov. Cuomo’s direction, the state stands ready to provide the [New York] Attorney General with the appropriate criminal referral on this matter if and when she asks for it,” Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, said in a statement Wednesday.
Acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a civil lawsuit in June against Trump, his three eldest children – Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric – and the charity, alleging that Trump followed “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct” for more than a decade.
The lawsuit accused the foundation of engaging in illegal political coordination with Trump’s campaign, making multiple self-dealing transactions to benefit Trump and his business interests, and violating legal obligations for such nonprofits in New York.
Underwood is seeking $2.8 million in restitution plus additional penalties, as well as the dissolving of the Trump Foundation under court supervision. The suit seeks to bar Trump from running a New York nonprofit for the next decade, while instituting a one-year ban for his three eldest children.
Trump has already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes, Underwood said in the suit.
Underwood also sent referral letters to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission identifying possible violations of federal law for the agencies to investigate.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Wednesday that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance opened an investigation into the charity that could lead to a criminal referral, two state officials familiar with the probe told the publication.
A criminal inquiry, The Times reported, could reveal more information than the civil suit, such as Trump’s tax returns.
‘I won’t settle this case!’
- Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Underwood would need a criminal referral like the one Cuomo referenced to file a criminal lawsuit. Her office said Wednesday that it hadn’t yet determined whether such a referral was warranted.
“We continue to evaluate the evidence to determine what additional actions may be warranted, and will seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary,” Amy Spitalnick, Underwood’s communications director and senior policy adviser, said in a statement.
In June, Spitalnick told Business Insider the office didn’t have criminal jurisdiction over nonprofit entities, which is why as part of the civil suit the attorney general sent referrals to the IRS and the FEC, with the Department of Justice copied as well.
When the lawsuit was first filed, Trump tweeted that Democrats were “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.”
“I won’t settle this case!” he said.
The Trump Foundation also attacked the attorney general’s office, accusing it of playing “politics at its very worst.” As evidence, the foundation cited the fact the lawsuit was made public on the same day as the release of the Department of Justice inspector general’s report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“This is unconscionable – particularly because the Foundation previously announced its intention to dissolve more than a year and a half ago,” a representative said in a statement.