Judge Reinstates DC Lawsuit Against Trump Organization
WASHINGTON — In a week of legal crises for Donald Trump, a judge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday set Sept. 26 for the trial date in a lawsuit the District of Columbia’s attorney general filed against the former president’s 2017 inaugural committee.
Washington, D.C., Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams reinstated the lawsuit after an earlier dismissal.
She also ruled the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer could be deposed as a witness.
Attorney General Karl Racine accuses the Presidential Inaugural Committee of misusing $1.1 million in charitable funds for business transactions. If true, it would be a violation of the District of Columbia’s Nonprofit Corporation Act, which restricts nonprofit organization spending to charitable purposes.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is registered as a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. The Trump Organization is registered as a corporation in New York.
“No one is above the law, and we’re now going to trial to hold Donald Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee accountable for illegally using nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family,” Racine said in a statement.
A summary of the lawsuit posted on Racine’s website says the Presidential Inaugural Committee “misused charitable funds to dramatically overpay the Trump Hotel for event space, throw a private party for the Trump children and pay a private debt owed by the Trump Organization.”
Intermingling of campaign funds and personal finances also is forbidden by the Federal Election Commission.
“Cheaters should never prosper,” Racine said.
The Trump Organization’s attorneys argued the two people who purchased the event space and signed the contracts for other transactions lacked authority to act for the inaugural committee.
The inaugural committee was not named as a party to the contract for the event space rental at the Trump International Hotel and a second hotel in downtown Washington. Nevertheless, the committee later paid a $50,000 bill for rental of some of the space.
Judge Williams ruled additional fact-finding is needed on the question of the employees’ authority to act for the Trump Organization.
The lawsuit asks the court to seize any amounts of money that might have been improperly paid to the Trump International Hotel, then distribute it to “nonprofit entities dedicated to promoting civic engagement.”
The judge’s ruling came days after Mazars, the Trump Organization’s long-time accounting firm, served notice it no longer would work as the organization’s accountants.
A letter from Mazars to the Trump Organization cited a “non-waivable conflict of interest.”
On the same day as the court ruling in Washington, a New York judge ordered Trump and his two children to submit to questioning in a deposition by the state attorney general’s office.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the former president’s business practices.
“In the final analysis, a state attorney general commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so,” 1st Judicial District Judge Arthur F. Engoron wrote in his ruling.
Tom can be reached at [email protected]