This Week in Conflicts: Trump Foundation Dissolving, Trump’s Inaugural Committee Under Investigation and Emoluments Lawsuit on Hold


This week, President Donald Trump’s charity has agreed to dissolve under judicial supervision, an appeals court has put one of the emoluments lawsuits on hold and the president’s inauguration committee is under federal investigation.

President Donald J. Trump arrives on Air Force One to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 2, 2017. (Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

Trump Foundation Dissolving

The Trump Foundation, President Trump’s charity, has agreed to dissolve under court supervision.

The agreement comes as the New York state Attorney General’s office continues its civil lawsuit against the organization. As CNN reports, the dissolution of the charity resolves one element of the lawsuit.

According to CNN, the lawsuit “claims that the President and his three eldest children — Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric — violated campaign-finance laws and abused its tax-exempt status. Rather than operating it as a genuine charity, the lawsuit alleges, they instead allowed it to be used ‘as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.’”

The foundation has net assets of more than $1.7 million, according to the most recent tax return filed. The agreement to dissolve will allow the attorney general’s office to review “the recipients of the charity’s assets,” CNN reports.

Department of Defense senior leaders attend the 9/11 Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2017. (Image Credit: DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Trump Tenants “Collateral Damage”?

The New York Times is reporting that tenants of buildings owned by the Trump family were “collateral damage” as the president and his siblings “dodged” taxes and took over control of their father’s buildings.

The red-brick buildings are located in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and housed thousands of renters. In the 1990s as those renters began to see their regulated rents increase they assumed it was due to building improvements made by the Trump family.

Instead, according to the New York Times, “a hidden scam lurked behind the mysterious increases.”

In October, the Times looked into the origins of President Trump’s wealth and found the president and his siblings “set up a phony business to pad the cost of nearly everything their father, the legendary builder Fred C. Trump, purchased for his buildings. The Trump children split that extra money. Padding the invoices had a secondary benefit for the Trumps, allowing them to inflate rent increases on their father’s rent-regulated apartments.”

The Trump family no longer owns these buildings but as the Times reports, the impact is still being felt by current tenants.

“The padded invoices have been baked into the base rent used to calculate the annual percentage increase approved by the city,” according to the New York Times. “The sum total of the rent overcharges cannot be calculated from available records. As a way to appreciate the scope of the impact, a onetime $10 increase in 1995 on all the 8,000 apartments involved would put the total overpaid by tenants at more than $33 million to date, an analysis of approved rent increases shows.”

No one from the Trump family responded to the Times reporting.

President Donald Trump, joined by First Daughter Ivanka Trump talks with NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer onboard the International Space Station Monday, April 24, 2017 from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The President congratulated Whitson for breaking the record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut. The President and First Daughter were also joined by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and discussed with the three astronauts what it is like to live and work on the orbiting outpost as well as the importance of STEM. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Inaugural Committee Investigation

President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, CNN is reporting.

The investigation is into possible financial abuses connected to the more than $100 million raised for the president’s inauguration.

According to the Wall Street Journal, prosecutors are looking into whether money was misspent and if the committee accepted donations from people looking to gain influence in or access to the Trump administration, all of which would be illegal. Trump’s inaugural committee said the celebration was “in full compliance with all applicable laws.”

Some of the inauguration spending was for rooms, meals and event space at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. according to a recent story by WNYC and ProPublica, and it could have violated tax law. According to WNYC and ProPublica, “during the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to ‘express my concern’ that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen ‘when this is audited.’”


Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC USA

Emoluments Lawsuit on Hold

The emoluments lawsuits brought against President Trump by the attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Maryland is on hold.

According to Reuters, a U.S. appeals court has halted the lawsuit and froze legal discovery in the case. The appeals court said it wants to review preliminary rulings that allowed the case to move forward.

The lawsuit claims President Trump is violating the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause bans public officials from receiving gifts and payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

The attorneys general argue that not divesting from his business, President Trump and the Trump Organization, are profiting from payments from foreign governments. The lawsuit specifically calls out payments and business associated with the Trump International Hotel in D.C. The plaintiffs also allege Maryland and D.C. companies are losing out on potential business because people are choosing Trump-owned properties, instead of local businesses.

The appeals court said it will hear oral arguments in March.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.