Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Trump to pay $2 million in charity scam that is a lot like what he’s facing impeachment for

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: Trump ordered to pay $2 million to charities over misuse of foundation, court documents say]

Trump agreed to a $2 million settlement, essentially conceding that his charity was a scam, and then, hours later, delivered an all-caps “STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP” on Twitter attacking the settlement he’d just agreed to. The statement is mostly lies.

In the so-ordered stipulated settlement the judge wrote (and the parties agreed) that Trump owed “fiduciary duties” to the Foundation and that he breached them.


Which is basically what he’s going to be impeached for: he was a fiduciary of Congressionally-allocated funds which he used for his own benefit, breaching his fiduciary duty to the country.

To back up a bit, in case anyone forgot why Trump was sued by New York to begin with, the original undisputed allegations showed that Trump used the charity like a slush fund, or alternate tax-evading accounting option, using charity money to pay for things like…

— a portrait of himself, which was then displayed at Trump Doral ($10k)
— a legal settlement with Palm Beach ($100k)
— advertising for Trump Hotels ($5k)
— legal settlement with Martin Greenberg, who sued Trump National Golf Club for failing to pay him the $1 million prize for hitting a hole-in-one at a charity golf tournament ($158k)

NY also accused the charity of coordinating with the Trump campaign, which is prohibited. The charity never once held a board meeting. Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg didn’t even know he was on the Board until New York filed suit.

Oh yeah, and he “donated” — from this charity — $25,000 to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s own political campaign. On Bondi’s desk at the time was a request to join, along with other affected states, a class action lawsuit against another Trump scam, Trump University (which scam eventually settled for $25 million). Within three days of receipt of the Trump Foundation check Bondi declined to join the lawsuit.

The New York lawsuit doesn’t really get into it, but the truly galling part of this is that the Trump Foundation was mostly funded by outsiders solicited by Trump. So Trump was collecting money from third parties in the name of charity, skimming however much, and then paying his own bills with the money while enjoying the tax break that came from the money he did manage to actually donate, not to mention the perception engendered by appearing to be an actual charitable person and not a crooked blowhard.

Here’s the settlement…

Trump Foundation: Settlement by Tony Ortega on Scribd

And here’s Trump’s statement…


There’s a question that I don’t think the settlement adequately answers, and that’s whether Trump has violated the settlement by contesting the allegations. The settlement includes language that the Trump parties (which includes his crooked kids) “neither admit nor deny” the allegations. Does he breach this settlement by then denying the allegations? I think a case could be made, but I’m skeptical the NY AG would pursue it.

The libertarian Cato Institute recently sued over similar boilerplate “neither admit nor deny” language found in SEC settlements, alleging that they effectively amount to a gag-order in violation of the First Amendment. I’ll try to look into that suit because there may be examples of the government enforcing or attempting to enforce settlements they later saw as breached by a party denying. Unless Cato sued only on the hypothetical possibility, which is entirely possible.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email