Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He stopped pretending to run a charity.

Trump and his three eldest children are being sued by the State of New York for their illegal use of the Trump Foundation, a nonprofit organization, for personal and political gain. As part of that suit, Trump agreed today to shut down the foundation and let a judge decide how to distribute its assets among legitimate charities.

Trump's history with "charities" is rich enough that it's been the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism. Some of the anecdotes are humorous, like when Trump used Trump Foundation funds to pay his youngest son's $7 Boy Scouts registration fee. Others are less funny, like his habit of making splashy public pledges for popular causes, and then simply moving on without paying.

The state's case against Trump describes a "shocking pattern of illegality" in which the charity's money—virtually none of which was donated by Trump family members—was spent at Trump Organization businesses, or on vanity items like portraits of Trump himself, or on illegal promotion of Trump's presidential campaign. The suit alleges that the Foundation was little more than a slush fund for Trump's personal ambitions, so shoddily run that the man listed on its charter as its Treasurer didn't even know he had the job.

The suit also notes that, because so much of the Trump Foundation's real purpose was to funnel money back into Trump-owned businesses, it became a convenient vehicle for bribery once Trump's political career took off. On the campaign trail, Trump routinely accused Hillary Clinton's foundation of doing exactly this.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to accuse others of crimes you yourself are in the process of committing.
  • The President of the United States should be above running a fake charity scam.
  • More money would have gone to legitimate charities if the Trump Foundation had never existed.