Donald Trump has agreed to shut down his personal charity, the Trump Foundation, in the wake of a succession of scandals and a looming lawsuit which exposed a “shocking pattern of illegality”.
Trump had used the charity to pay off legal settlements within his business and even to buy a painting of himself to hang in one of his golf clubs.
The news that the charity will shut down was announced by New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood, who said the Trump Foundation had signed a stipulation agreeing to dissolve the foundation under judicial supervision.
Any remaining funds must be distributed to charitable causes which can be chosen by Trump and his children Ivanka, Don Jr and Eric, but they must be submitted to the court within 30 days and approved by the attorney general.
The action follows a court decision last month allowing Underwood’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation to move forward.
In a statement, Underwood said: “Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”
She added: “This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone.”
The attorney general had claimed the charity was used as a “piggy bank” to boost Trump Sr’s 2016 presidential campaign, violating rules that bar not-for-profit groups from engaging in certain types of political activity.
The suit claimed that up to $3m in such funds boosted Trump’s campaign. Among examples of improperly used funds is the allegation that the charity spent $10,000 on a giant painting of Trump himself.
The lawsuit alleged that during the 2016 campaign, Trump received more than $2m at a fundraiser in Iowa and the money went to his foundation. The lawsuit said Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, determined when and where money would be given away.
At least five $100,000 grants were made to groups in Iowa in the days immediately before the 1 February 2016 Iowa caucuses.
In November, the Manhattan supreme court justice Saliann Scarpulla found that the president was not “immune” from state lawsuits, as Trump has claimed in other litigation.
Following the announcement of the shutdown, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said: “The Donald J Trump Foundation has abused the rules governing non-profit charitable foundations and admitted to breaking the law. It apparently operated for the sole purpose of benefiting Donald Trump.
“Crew filed complaints calling for investigations into the Foundation for improper political activity, lying on its tax returns, and self-dealing to benefit Donald Trump, among other problems. It is good to see this fraud is finally over.”