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Trump pulling the plug on his foundation

Donald Trump’s statement indicated that he was asking his counsel to move forward on the process. | AP Photo

President-elect Donald Trump announced Saturday he intends to dissolve his foundation, his latest move aimed at settling ethical conflicts that have already dogged the incoming administration.

“The Foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children,” Trump’s statement indicated. “However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President, I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways.”

His statement, issued by his transition team’s communications office, indicated that he was asking his counsel to move forward on the process of dissolving the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Trump remained at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Trump’s statement continued: “I am very proud of the money that has been raised for many organizations in need, and I am also very proud of the fact that the Foundation has operated at essentially no cost for decades, with 100% of the money going to charity, but because I will be devoting so much time and energy to the Presidency and solving the many problems facing our country and the world, I don’t want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest.”

The foundation, which was founded in April 1988, has been the source of controversy throughout Trump’s presidential campaign and the transition period after the election. Like many other aspects of his complicated business life, it has been fraught with potential conflicts of interest for someone stepping in to the most powerful position in the world.

Trump and a team of lawyers has been working since the election to untangle a wide range of conflicts tied to the president-elect’s domestic and international real estate, hotel and investment portfolio, a task complex enough that it forced a delay in his planned Dec. 15 press conference to unveil his strategy. Trump now is expected to roll out a plan before Inauguration Day that addresses a range of issues, including possible restrictions on how he communicates with his adult children tasked with running his company and how he could potentially return to the business when he’s no longer president.

In the meantime, Trump and his family have made a series of moves aimed at resolving some festering controversies. Business plans tied to properties and other deals in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Georgia and Saudi Arabia have been shuttered. Trump also has said he sold as much as $ 40 million in stock holdings back during the campaign, settled lawsuits alleging fraud at Trump University, and stood down on plans to build a controversial sea wall to protect his Ireland golf course. Eric Trump this week also said he’d stop directly raising funds for his charitable foundation.

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The president-elect’s moves to cease charitable work is aimed at ramping down one ongoing source of controversy.

During the campaign, various journalists, including David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, found evidence that the foundation had not necessarily fulfilled the functions it was set up to do — and that it did not always follow the strict rules set up for nonprofits. Particularly notable were instances when the foundation spent money on things it was not supposed to spend money on.

Foundation money had been used to settle legal disputes involving Trump himself, and money was donated to the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a time Bondi was involved in a fraud investigation of Trump University.

There have been other issues involving the concept of “self-dealing,” which bars those who run non-profits from spending some of that money on themselves. For instance, it was reported that Trump used $ 12,000 of foundation money to buy himself a football helmet signed by former quarterback Tim Tebow.

In September, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office was investigating the foundation. Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman’s press secretary, tweeted Saturday that the foundation “cannot legally dissolve until investigation complete.”

Henry Kissinger has been promoting himself as a potential intermediary between a Trump White House and Russia.

The Democratic National Committee said Trump needs to do more. A statement from party spokesman Eric Walker called the president-elect’s move “a wilted fig leaf to cover up his remaining conflicts of interest and his pitiful record of charitable giving.”

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a frequent critic of the president-elect, lauded the end of the foundation as “a necessary first step” but was dubious of the timing of the announcement.

“If Donald Trump truly wants to ‘drain the swamp’ and usher in a new level of respectability for the government, there are many serious issues that must be resolved and many business and financial interests that must be disclosed — and not just on Christmas Eve when most of America isn’t watching,” the organization said in a statement.

In 2014, according to the Foundation’s tax filing, it had revenue of $ 500,849 (almost entirely from contributions) and total assets of $ 1,273,895. The foundation has donated to a range of causes over its lifespan.

Darren Samuelsohn is a senior policy reporter for Politico.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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