Lawyers representing the Trump Foundation are asking for the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against it to be dismissed.
Attorney Alan Futerfas said in a court filing Thursday that the foundation acted legally and did not violate its non-profit status by contributing to or advocating for the Trump campaign.
The defendants in the case – Donald Trump; his children Donald, Ivanka and Eric;and the Donald J. Trump Foundation – argue the suit was the product of “pervasive bias” on the part of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and is without merit. They moved to dismiss the case in a motion filed in the New York Supreme Court.
“The NYAG himself – the head of the entity that brought this Petition – solicited financial donations to his own campaign for re-election based on his promise to ‘lead the resistance’ and attack the President and his policies, describing the President as out to ‘hurt’ New Yorkers. The NYAG, as an entity, has issued scores of press releases trumpeting its fight against the President as evidence of its reason d’etre (sic) and its success as an agency.”
Futerfas also writes, “the record leaves no doubt that the lead investigator of Mr. Trump was an open and notorious adversary of Mr. Trump, and his office shared and continued that posture.”
Schneiderman is the former New York attorney general who often took on the Trump administration by fighting its policies in court. He resigned in May after four women accused him of physically assaulting them while in relationships. He has denied the allegations.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood ultimately brought the suit in June, alleging a pattern of persistent illegal conduct over more than a decade, including extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign. The attorney general is asking a court to dissolve the Trump Foundation and wants $2.8 million in restitution plus additional penalties.
Futerfas notes that Schneiderman served on the “Leadership Council” of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and takes aim at the Clinton Foundation, noting the attorney general’s office “investigated the (Trump) Foundation at the same time they flatly ignored credible and serious allegations of impropriety at the Clinton Foundations.”
He adds that the attorney general’s office announced the investigation of the Trump Foundation “7 weeks before the election – while coincidentally ignoring a significant press report … that the Clinton Foundation omitted millions of dollars from state tax filings.”
Futerfas further argues against the factual basis of the suit, arguing that the Trump Foundation did not violate its non-profit status because the foundation neither contributed to nor advocated for the Trump campaign, attorneys said.
The filing Thursday defends the Iowa veterans’ fundraiser event central to the attorney general’s suit, saying it was a campaign event and the foundation simply received donations for the purpose of distributing them to other charities. The foundation “served as a passive recipient of donations through a website which were entirely disbursed to veteran’s organizations.”
“The Veteran’s Fundraiser was not a foundation event, and the foundation did not sponsor, fund, or incur expenses with respect to Mr. Trump’s televised fundraiser event.”
The presentation of the five large poster-board replica foundation checks was “not analogous to the Foundation publishing a statement on a candidate’s behalf.”
According to the lawsuit, Trump signed a false filing dated October 20, 2016, saying that the foundation held the fundraiser to raise money for veterans organizations. “This statement was false because, in reality, the Fundraiser was a Trump Campaign event in which the Foundation participated,” the suit said.
Further, Futerfas says, candidate Trump acted legally in his capacity as an individual.
“Federal Tax Laws do not preclude officers and directors of charitable organizations from engaging in political campaign activity in their individual capacities,” he said.
Candidate Trump, as an individual, encouraged donations to veteran’s organizations at a televised event “without any financial support from the Foundation,” at which he “urged the public to make donations to veterans’ organizations.”
Responding to the defense filing Thursday night, Amy Spitalnick, communications director and senior policy adviser to the New York attorney general, said on Twitter, “As our lawsuit detailed, the Trump Foundation functioned as a personal piggy bank to serve Trump’s business and political interests. We won’t back down from holding President Trump and his associates accountable for their flagrant violations of New York law.”
She later added, “How hard is it for women to get credit for their work? @NewYorkStateAG Barbara Underwood filed suit on June 14th against the Trump Foundation, yet Trump’s lawyer is trying to argue that the suit is the doing of the former AG who resigned May 7th.” The tweet also had a female shrug emoji.
The attorney general’s suit contends the Trump Foundation used the tax-deductible donations in at least five instances that benefited Trump or businesses he controls, including a $100,000 payment to settle legal claims against his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The lawsuit contains a note from Trump, which alleges that he personally directed his accounting staff to draw the $100,000 payment from the assets of the foundation to pay a legal settlement at his resort.
The suit also alleges a $158,000 payment to settle legal claims against his Trump National Golf Club in 2008 from a hole-in-one tournament; and a $10,000 payment at a charity auction to purchase a painting of Trump that was displayed at the Trump National Doral in Miami.
The attorney general says in the lawsuit that any personal, legal or business transactions not having to do with the charity should have been made from his personal or business accounts.
CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski and Kristina Sguelia contributed to this report.