Trump Campaign Struggles to Refute Reports of Charity’s Self-Dealing
Policy + Politics

Trump Campaign Struggles to Refute Reports of Charity’s Self-Dealing

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The Donald Trump campaign, late Tuesday, responded to a damning Washington Post report that the Republican presidential candidate’s family foundation had used funds intended for charity to settle legal obligations incurred by the candidate’s business enterprises.

However, while long on invective and misdirection, the three statements put out by Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller did not actually refute or even seriously contest the facts reported by The Post’s David Fahrenthold.

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In reviewing the public records of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Fahrenthold found more than a quarter of a million dollars given to the foundation from donors who presumably believed the funds were going to charity. Instead, the money was used to settle legal claims against Trump’s personal business interests.

While the funds for the most part were actually given to charity, the bulk of the gifts were made as part of legal settlements in which Trump-owned hotels and golf courses avoided a court judgment by agreeing to contribute to a charity. The expectation in such a case is that the funds would come from Trump himself or from his businesses. Settling them by using the funds of a charitable foundation under his control appears to be what experts refer to as “self-dealing.” That is, the illegal use of funds meant for charity to benefit someone charged with administering them.

"In typical Washington Post fashion, they’ve gotten their facts wrong,” Miller said in the statement. However, he did not actually point to a single fact that the report supposedly misstated.

Instead, he simply asserted not only that there had been no wrongdoing, but that it was somehow impossible for the Foundation to even intend to do something improper.

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“There was not, and could not be, any intent or motive for the Trump Foundation to make improper payments,” it continued. “All contributions are reported to the IRS, and all Foundation donations are publicly disclosed. Mr. Trump is generous both with his money and with his time. He has provided millions of dollars to fund his Foundation and a multitude of other charitable causes.”

This, in fact, is not borne out by other records explored in Fahrenthold’s reporting: Trump has not given a dime to the Foundation in nearly a decade. Hundreds of charities that Trump has claimed an association with have no record of receiving any contribution from him. Virtually all of the funds distributed by the Trump Foundation, although they typically appear to the recipient to be coming from Trump himself, come from other donors.

"The Post’s reporting is peppered with inaccuracies and omissions from a biased reporter,” Miller continued, claiming, with no proof, that Fahrenthold is attempting to deflect criticism of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.