For all his claims that he would be a “law and order” president, it is becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump and the organizations he runs -- from his multiple businesses to his family foundation -- appear to have a very difficult time obeying the law themselves.
A revelation today from The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold that the Donald J. Trump Foundation appears to have been soliciting donations in the state of New York without the required certification is only the most recent in a long and growing series of apparent violations of various laws.
According to the report, the New York attorney general’s office has determined that the Trump Foundation never received the certification required of all charities that accept donations of more than $25,000 a year, which it regularly does. The report could not confirm whether or not the AG is investigating the matter.
If it were to launch an investigation, it would not be the first.
AG Eric Schneiderman is already looking into the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s payment of $25,000 to the reelection campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The donation, which was plainly illegal since it came from a charitable foundation that is not allowed to make political donations, came suspiciously close in time to a decision by Bondi’s office not to pursue a case in another one of the matters where Trump appears to have run afoul of the law: Trump University.
Attorneys general across the country (including Schneiderman) have been pursuing fraud charges against Trump and his now defunct “University” for charging exorbitant fees in exchange for the promise of courses that would deliver near-magical knowledge about how to get rich in real estate.
The Trump courses were supposedly taught by instructors “hand-picked” by Trump, and were sold very aggressively by Trump employees. Among other things, they were instructed to encourage potential students to max out their credit cards and assume other forms of debt in order to finance ever-more-expensive “educational” programs.
But the stories about “handpicked” instructors and the promises of great personal wealth turned out to be false, leaving behind angry, debt-burdened students who eventually turned to the courts for relief.
This week, Newsweek magazine’s Kurt Eichenwald unearthed new details about another apparent violation of federal law by Trump’s hotel and casino company. In the 1990s the billionaire sent a team of consultants to Cuba to conduct talks about the possibility of doing business there if the U.S. embargo on the country were to lift.
The consultants, who Trump paid tens of thousands of dollars, spent some of that cash in Cuba, in direct violation of U.S. law at the time. Emails and other materials uncovered by Eichenwald show that Trump and his employees were aware that what they were doing was illegal and sought to cover it up.
At the first presidential debate on Monday, Democrat Hillary Clinton pointed out that Trump’s real estate firm had been investigated by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination against African Americans in the 1970s.
The list goes on and on. Trump has been named in countless lawsuits, frequently alleging sexual discrimination, breach of contract or other violations. Trump, despite his claims that he “never settles,” has settled many of these suits, though usually without an admission of guilt.
For a candidate constantly insisting that only he can bring back the rule of law, Trump and his business empire certainly appear to have spent a lot of time on the wrong side of it.