New York’s highest court has refused to dismiss the state attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation alleging President Trump and his three eldest children illegally used the charitable organization for their own private and political benefit.
The Manhattan Supreme Court found that it had jurisdiction over President Trump, despite lawyers for the foundation, the president, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump arguing that the Constitution prevented a sitting president from being sued, according to court documents filed Friday.
“Although the Supreme Court [of the United States] noted that the Supremacy Clause prohibits state courts from exercising ‘direct control’ over federal officers in a way that interferes with their federal responsibilities, this concern is only relevant in cases relating to the execution of federal law,” Justice Saliann Scarpulla wrote. “Here, the allegations raised in the Petition do not involve any action taken by Mr. Trump as president and any potential remedy would not affect Mr. Trump’s official federal duties.”
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued Trump and his children, who acted as directors for the foundation, in June, seeking to dissolve the not-for-profit organization for “persistent illegal conduct.” Her petition alleges that the charity engaged in “extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations,” Underwood’s office said at the time.
If successful, the Trumps could be ordered to pay about $2.8 million in restitution, plus penalties. President Trump could also be banned from being a director of a New York-based nonprofit organization for 10 years, while Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump could be barred for one year.
On Friday, Underwood reiterated her claim that the Trumps used their charity “as little more than a checkbook.”
“As we detailed in our petition earlier this year, the Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” she said in a statement. “There are rules that govern private foundations — and we intend to enforce them, no matter who runs the foundation. We welcome Justice Scarpulla’s decision, which allows our suit to move forward.”
A lawyer for the Trump Organization on Friday downplayed the court’s decision to CNBC, saying it only meant that the case would continue.
“As we have maintained throughout, all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes to assist those most in need,” they said. “As a result, we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings.”
Underwood, who replaced Eric Schneiderman in May after a sex scandal, will be succeeded in January by Democratic New York Attorney General-elect Letitia James. James has promised to carry on with Underwood’s suit against the Trumps.