Thursday, November 7, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He admitted to illegal acts in court and then denied them on Twitter.

Today, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla ordered Trump to pay $2,000,000 out of his own pocket as part of a settlement over crimes committed by his fraudulent charity. The State of New York had sued Trump for, among other things, spending the "charity's" money on his own business expenses, and illegally using it as a source of campaign funds. 

In her order, Scarpulla effectively barred Trump (and his three eldest children) from ever serving on the board of a charity again. Any charity he tried to join would have to hire a watchdog lawyer and undergo extra audits. According to legal experts, this is an unusually strict kind of order in such a case, reflecting the seriousness of Trump's misdeeds.

Virtually none of the money that the Trump Foundation controlled was donated by Trump family members. Trump also has a very, very long history of publicly promising charitable donations and then never actually making them.

Among other things, as part of the settlement, Trump admitted:
  • that he personally misused the charity's funds
  • that he ran the charity without an actual board of directors, which is illegal
  • that he failed to establish legally required rules and policies for it
  • that his negligence led to the charity becoming involved in further crimes (like allowing itself to be used as a personal piggy bank or campaign slush fund)
  • that he intentionally used it as an arm of his presidential campaign, which is illegal
  • that he used it to pay his private companies' legal bills
  • that he used its funds to buy a $10,000 portrait of himself, which he hung in his private Florida resort
  • that he used its funds to buy a $11,525 autographed football helmet for himself
It's important to note that Trump wasn't forced to make these stipulations. He could have allowed the case to go to trial, in which case the damages (and public embarrassment) would likely have been much higher. 

Instead, Trump seems to think that it's politically and legally safer to tell the truth to a judge and then lie to the American public about having done so. He tweeted a statement today essentially denying everything, claiming that the judge who ordered him to pay an extra $2,000,000 was taking his side, and insisting he was the real victim.

Why should I care?

  • It's wrong to steal charity money.
  • It's bad if the president has to admit to repeatedly breaking the law.
  • It's extremely bad that Trump may genuinely think he is the victim here.