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14 Sep, 2016 07:19

NY Attorney-General opens investigation into Donald J. Trump Foundation

The New York Attorney-General has opened an investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation, citing “impropriety” concerns.

“My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of nonprofits in New York state,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday, speaking to CNN's ‘The Lead.’ “And we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view... and we’ve inquired into it, and we’ve had correspondence with them. I didn’t make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”

Following news of the investigation, Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, called Schneiderman “a partisan hack who has turned a blind eye to the Clinton Foundation for years and has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.”

“This is nothing more than another left-wing hit job designed to distract from Crooked Hillary Clinton’s disastrous week,” Miller said.

It follows numerous articles claiming that Trump's foundation has participated in dubious activities, with a Washington Post report over the weekend citing tax records which suggested that Trump has not donated to his own foundation since 2008, and “spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.” 

The foundation also made a donation of $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013, while she was considering joining Schneiderman in pursuing a fraud case against Trump University, AP reported. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the donation.

Citing reports on the donation, Democrats wrote a letter to Lynch which said that such reports indicate “that these payments may have influenced Mrs. Bondi’s official decision not to participate in litigation against Mr. Trump.”

“A number of criminal statutes would appear to be implicated by this course of conduct,” the Democrats wrote, suggesting bribery and tax laws governing nonprofit organizations.

Bondi and Trump have denied any connection between the donation and her office’s decision not to pursue an investigation. Trump did, however, pay a $2,500 fine for violating IRS rules regarding political contributions by charitable organizations.

The investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation is the latest tangle between Trump and Schneiderman, a Democrat who supports Hillary Clinton.

Schneiderman has spoken out against Trump and his various businesses in the past, previously telling ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ that Trump University’s real estate seminars were “really a fraud from beginning to end” and “just a scam.”

Not one to shy away from confrontation, Trump has gone on record calling Schneiderman a “hack” and a “lightweight.” As far back as 2013, the Republican candidate said the attorney-general was “trying to extort me with a civil lawsuit.”

Relations were apparently better in 2010, as NBC has reported that Trump donated $12,500 to Schneiderman’s attorney-general campaign that year.

Meanwhile, Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton continues to face criticism over her own foundation, following emails which suggest that big donors to the Clinton Foundation received big favors from the State Department. An investigation has also revealed that the Former Presidents Act was used to fund the Clinton Foundation.