NEW YORK – A judge Thursday ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million to an array of charities as a fine for misusing his own charitable foundation to further his political and business interests.
New York state Judge Saliann Scarpulla imposed the penalty after the president admitted to a series of abuses outlined in a lawsuit brought against him last year by the New York attorney general's office.
Among other things, Trump acknowledged in a legal filing that he allowed his presidential campaign staff to coordinate with the Trump Foundation in holding a fundraiser for veterans during the run-up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses. The event was designed “to further Mr. Trump's political campaign,” Scarpulla said.
In a defiant statement issued Thursday, Trump suggested he was neither sorry nor in the wrong.
“I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity (19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State,” he wrote.
Trump's foundation will be dissolved and its $1.7 million in remaining funds will be given to other nonprofits, under agreements reached by Trump's lawyers and the attorney general's office.
The president admitted, among other things, to arranging for the charity to pay $10,000 for a 6-foot portrait of him. He also agreed to pay back $11,525 in foundation funds that he spent on sports memorabilia and champagne at a charity gala.
Charities are barred from getting involved in political campaigns, but in weighing the Iowa fundraiser, Scarpulla gave Trump credit for making good on his pledge to give $2.8 million that his charity raised to veterans' organizations.
Instead of fining him that amount, as the attorney general's office wanted, the judge trimmed it to $2 million and rejected a demand for punitive damages and interest.
Trump also admitted in the agreements to directing that $100,000 in foundation money be used to settle claims over an 80-foot flagpole he had built at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, instead of paying the expense out of his own pocket.
In addition, the foundation paid $158,000 to resolve a lawsuit over a prize for a hole-in-one contest at a Trump-owned golf course, and $5,000 for ads promoting Trump's hotels in the programs for charitable events. Trump admitted these transactions were also improper.
As part of the settlement, Donald Trump Jr. reimbursed the Trump Foundation for the cost of the portrait.