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Judge rejects claim that Trump can't be sued while in office, allows lawsuit against Trump Foundation to move forward

Sarah Gray
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  • The lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and his children Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., alleging misuse of charity funds, will move forward.
  • Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York State Supreme Court issued a ruling on Friday, rejecting the notion that President Trump cannot face a suit while in office.
  • Lawyers for the Trump Foundation made several arguments to get the case dismissed, including on the grounds that "a sitting president could not be sued," according to the 27-page ruling.
  • The suit, as described in Friday's ruling, alleges the "misuse of charitable assets and self-dealing" and that "the Foundation and its board members have transacted business illegally and abusively over a number of years."

The lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and his children Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., alleging misuse of charity funds, is allowed to move forward.

Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York State Supreme Court issued a ruling on Friday, allowed the lawsuit to proceed and rejected the notion that President Trump cannot face such legal action while in office.

Lawyers for the Trump Foundation made several arguments to get the case dismissed, including on the grounds that "a sitting president could not be sued," according to the 27-page ruling.

However, Judge Scarpulla, citing decisions in Clinton v. Jonesand Zervos v. Trump, stated that she did have jurisdiction and allowed the case to move forward.

The lawsuit was initially filed in June by the New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood. The suit, as described in Friday's ruling, alleges the "misuse of charitable assets and self-dealing" and that "the Foundation and its board members have transacted business illegally and abusively over a number of years." The New York attorney general's office is arguing that Trump, the foundation, Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric violated both state and federal law.

Specific allegations include using charitable assests that mostly consisted of outside donations to settle legal obligations, "purchase personal items," and "advance Mr. Trump's presidential election."

The Washington Post initially dug into the financials of the Trump Foundation during the campaign in 2016.

The New York Attorney General's office then began its investigation, initially under former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (a Trump antagonist). Schneiderman resigned in May of 2018 after multiple women accused him of abuse. Underwood took over the investigation and filed the suit in June.


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The suit seeks to dissolve the foundation, bar Trump from heading a charitable organisation for a decade, bar Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. from leading a nonprofit for a year, and obtain recompense of $US2.8 million plus penalties.

Following the initial suit, Trump lashed out on Twitter, suggesting that it was political and vowing "I won't settle this case!"

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1007278788009480192?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

A statement from the foundation called the suit, "politics at its very worst."

"The Foundation has donated over $US19 million to worthy charitable causes - more than it even received," a spokesperson for the Trump Foundation said back in June. "The President himself - or through his companies - has contributed more than $US8 million. The reason the Foundation was able to donate more than it took in is because it had little to no expenses. This is unheard of for a charitable foundation."

On Friday, lawyer for the Trump Foundation Alan Futerfas said, "The decision means only that the case goes forward. As we have maintained throughout, all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes to assist those most in need. As a result, we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings."

INSIDER contacted the Trump Organisation for comment.

A statement from AG Underwood's office said, "We welcome Justice Scarpulla's decision, which allows our suit to move forward."

"As we detailed in our petition earlier, the Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests," the statement continued. "There are rules that govern private foundations - and we intend to enforce them, no matter who runs the foundation."