With every new revelation that proves Donald Trump is rotten and corrupt to his ugly orange core, it’s tempting for those of us in the reality-based world to ask, “Is this what finally makes Republicans abandon him?” The answer has always been “No.” And it’s really starting to feel as if the answer will never be “Yes.”
So I’m not expecting a Republican come-to-Jesus moment (Trump is their Jesus now) to happen in the wake of news that Trump has agreed to shut down his “charity” after New York’s Attorney General found “a shocking pattern of illegality involving the [Donald J.] Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more.”
If that sounds bad, that’s because it’s bad.
Although the foundation has admitted no wrongdoing as of yet, the ongoing investigation has already documented some appalling and illegal behavior by the nonprofit organization. As it turns out, Trump used money given to his nonprofit – again, ostensibly a charity – to:
– pay legal settlements for his business even though federal law prohibits using charity donations for personal gain.
– make a campaign contribution of $25,000 to a super PAC supporting Florida AG candidate Pam Bondi without telling the IRS, which it was required by law to do. Instead, the foundation reported that the donation was actually a gift to a Kansas charity with a name similar to the super PAC’s. In addition, the check arrived four days after an Orlando Sentinel report suggested Bondi might investigate fraud allegations against the ill-fated Trump University. Bondi did not investigate.
– pay for giveaways at campaign rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire, which is illegal because again, charity money can’t be used for personal gain. Since Trump was the candidate benefitting.
– purchase a $20,000 portrait of himself, the whereabouts of which are unknown, and whose value he most recently reported to the IRS as being $0 a year after claiming it had a value of $700.
Not only are these actions illegal, they are morally repugnant. Even if you’re a Republican willing to fly with Trump to Guyana to live in the forest until he asks you to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid because it will Make America Great Again and you do it so you can escape the criminal caravan and see Jesus, on some level you have to admit that it’s reprehensible for the founder of a charity to spend the money on himself instead.
Aw, who am I kidding? You won’t.
The good news is, it’s not like the Trump Foundation ever had a whole lot of money on hand for Trump to spend on himself. The most it’s ever had in the bank was $3.2 million in 2009. That’s a paltry sum for a so called billionaire’s so called charity. Not only that, the foundation’s biggest benefactors recently haven’t been Trump or his family, but Vince and Linda McMahon, And I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that as president, Trump appointed Linda to head the federal government’s Small Business Administration.
The craziest part of the Post story is this little nugget, and it shows what a cheapskate and maybe not-billionaire Trump is:
“The largest donation in the foundation’s history — a $264,231 gift to the Central Park Conservancy in 1989 — appeared to benefit Trump’s business: It paid to restore a fountain outside Trump’s Plaza Hotel. The smallest, a $7 foundation gift to the Boy Scouts that same year, appeared to benefit Trump’s family. It matched the amount required to enroll a boy in the Scouts the year that his son Donald Trump Jr. was 11.”
So instead of just paying the Boy Scouts $7 from his own pocket, Trump used his foundation’s funds to pay the enrollment fee. In a weird way, I’d be less offended if the fee were $700. We know Trump is awful and corrupt, so a $700 dip into the foundation’s till wouldn’t surprise me. But he didn’t want to take a seven dollar personal hit?
You won’t be shocked to learn that the Trump Foundation’s board consisted of Trump, Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Trump Organization CFO Andrew Weisselberg, which means poor Tiffany couldn’t even get a do-nothing gig from her dad. And what a do-nothing gig it was! The New York AG’s investigation found that the board hadn’t met since 1999.
In 2017, Weisselberg hilariously confessed he didn’t know he was a board member until more than 10 years after the fact. When asked by investigators what policies the foundation had to ensure its payments were legal and proper, Weisselberg responded, “There’s no policy, just so you understand.”
Of course there wasn’t a policy. That would require complying with standard nonprofit practice, which would require hiring a compliance officer with expertise in, and experience at, nonprofits or other organizations. This would have meant doing things by the book. But Trump doesn’t read books.
He just cooks them.