Judge shuts down accusations of 'political bias' in Trump Foundation hearing

The state accused Trump of using donations to pay off financial obligations.

October 25, 2018, 4:30 PM

Attorneys for the Trump Organization and prosecutors from the New York Attorney General’s Office squared off in state court for the first time on Thursday over allegations that President Donald Trump and his children repeatedly misused charitable donations to the Trump Foundation.

Alan Futerfas, an attorney for the Trump Organization, which is linked to the foundation, sought to convince Judge Saliann Scarpulla of the New York Supreme Court that the lawsuit, filed by the New York Attorney General's office in June, was politically motivated.

The judge, however, quickly shut that argument down.

"I don't want to get involved in political bias,” the judge told Futerfas. “The allegations are what they are."

The investigation into the foundation began under former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Attorneys for the foundation have alleged he was investigating the foundation while raising campaign money on the promise to oppose the president's agenda.

Schneiderman has since resigned amid accusations of domestic abuse first published by The New Yorker. Attorney General Barbara Underwood took over the investigation upon Schneiderman’s resignation and filed the lawsuit in June.

In a recent court filing, the New York Attorney General's office wrote that the president used foundation funds “for his benefit to advance his personal, business, and political interest in violation of federal and state law governing charities.”

Attorneys for Trump argued that the money was always used for charitable purposes within the law, such as in 2014 when Trump bid $10,000 of foundation money on a portrait of himself at a charity auction benefiting the Unicorn Foundation. Futerfas told the court Trump only donated to start the bidding, but when no one else would bid, the Donald J. Trump Foundation was stuck with the painting.

The suit seeks to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation and to prohibit Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump from serving on other charitable boards in the future.

Judge Scarpulla did not rule on the Trump Foundation’s motion to dismiss the suit, opting instead to wait for an unrelated appeals court decision in New York that would determine whether or not the President of the United States can be sued in state court.

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