WASHINGTON — The Trump family business and President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration commission in 2017 jointly agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the District Attorney General of the District of Columbia, who claimed it was Trump. International Hotel in Washington unlawfully received excessive payments from the founding committee.
The civil suit settlement came without admission of wrongdoing by the Trump Organization, the former president, or the inaugural commission.
But the payment amounted to nearly three-quarters of the $1.03 million that, according to the lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Karl Racine, had been paid to Mr. Trump’s hotel by the nonprofit’s inaugural committee to lease space. on what Mr. Racine claimed was above market price and then using that in part to hold a private reception for Mr. Trump’s children the night he was sworn in as president.
The settlement also came days before the Trump family is set to officially close the sale of the Trump International Hotel, which will be converted into a Waldorf Astoria after Mr. Trump’s name is removed from the landmark building on Pennsylvania Avenue a few blocks away. . of the White House.
Negotiations to settle the lawsuit intensified earlier this year after a Supreme Court judge in Washington set a trial date for September and rejected an attempt by the Trump Organization to be removed from the lawsuit, making it likely that members of Mr Trump’s family would go. be called to testify in open court.
“After his election, one of the first actions Donald Trump took was to illegally use his own inauguration to enrich his family,” Racine said in a statement announcing the settlement on Tuesday. “Non-profit funds cannot be used to fill the pockets of individuals, no matter how powerful they are.”
The settlement makes it clear that the Trump Organization “disputes these allegations on a variety of grounds and denies involvement in any wrongdoing or unlawful conduct.”
Racine’s $750,000 will be donated by Mr. Racine to two nonprofit organizations that promote democracy and support youth in Washington DC, Mikva Challenge DC and DC Action, organizations founded or run by former aides to President Bill Clinton. including Abner Mikva, a former federal judge, Clinton White House counsel and Democratic congressman from Illinois.
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., among many others, had to sit down for statements as Mr. Racine moved forward in the case brought against the Trump Organization and its inauguration commission. They repeatedly dismissed the charges as unfounded, saying the hotel and the inauguration committee had done nothing wrong.
“The ‘investigation’ is another politically motivated demonstration of revenge and waste of taxpayers’ money,” Trump said. wrote on Twitter in December 2020after being questioned for five hours by Mr. Racine’s staff as part of the lawsuit.
The settlement follows an action last year by the United States Supreme Court, after Mr. Trump left office, to dismiss separate legal claims that he illegally accepted payments at the hotel from foreign government officials, in violation of the so-called emoluments clauses of the Constitution.
Those lawsuits were deemed moot because Mr. Trump no longer served as president, meaning the federal courts have never ruled whether Mr. Trump violated the constitutional ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments.
In 2019, Mr. Trump agreed to a legal settlement in New York that he misused charitable donations to benefit himself.
But the legal threat to Mr. Trump continues, with investigations in New York, where the Attorney General and two prosecutors have been investigating statements the Trump organization has made about the value of its properties, as well as other business practices; and in Georgia, where Mr. Trump and others are being investigated to determine whether they criminally interfered in the 2020 presidential election.
Mr. Racine filed his lawsuit after an initial investigation by his office revealed emails showing former associates of Mr. Trump’s inauguration were questioning even as the Trump hotel contract was discussed in December 2016. negotiated, or the inauguration committee overpaid the Trump family for the hotel rental.
“I’m a little concerned about the view of PIC paying Trump Hotel a high fee and the media making a big story out of it,” Rick Gates, the former vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and a Trump inauguration planning committee member wrote to Ivanka Trump in a December 2016 email, referring to the presidential inauguration committee as they negotiated a deal to rent out ballrooms and other spaces at the Trump hotel.
The price the Trump hotel proposed to charge the inauguration was reduced after these initial concerns were raised, but the fee remained much higher than the same hotel had charged another nonprofit during the inauguration, and still aroused Trump’s aides, e-mails collected during the trial show concern.
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The Trump hotel lease also included a special “friend and family party” sponsored by Mr. Trump’s adult children, Mr. Racine said in the lawsuit, a sign of how money donated to a nonprofit was being used. used for personal benefit.
The inaugural committee set up by Mr. Trump, which collected donations from companies and individuals who later often sought official action from the Trump administration to aid their business interests, raised more than $107 million, far more than any previous inauguration.
The more than $1 million paid to the Trump hotel by the inauguration committee was seen by ethical watchdog groups as just the beginning of a pattern that lasted through the administration of Mr. Trump and his family using his White House status. to enrich themselves.
Under the law of the District of Columbia, the Attorney General oversees nonprofits, a power the office has used in recent years to investigate a local nonprofit hospital and theater company, accused, among other things, of misuse of charitable funds. .
Mr. Racine filed a motion Tuesday requesting Judge Yvonne Williams, of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, to drop his lawsuit before 2020, after attorneys from the Trump Organization and the inauguration commission signed a deal that set the terms of the proposed settlement.
The agreement noted that none of the current inauguration committee officials are associated with other nonprofit organizations in the District of Columbia, eliminating the need to place restrictions on their involvement with other charities in the city, such as the Attorney General’s Office. General of New York had done as part of the agreement. of the settlement there in 2019.
In the New York case, Mr. Trump was ordered to pay more than $2 million in damages for what Attorney General Letitia James described as “misuse of charitable funds for his own political gain,” including money from the Trump Foundation to pay. for a portrait of Mr. Trump who cost $10,000 and used foundation money for a political campaign event.
Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit that tracks Trump corporate spending, said the settlement was a major concession, even though the Trump organization did not admit wrongdoing.
“Trump showed from day one of his presidency that the entire enterprise was a scam,” he said. “And a lot of it was in public view.”