If Donald Trump intends to take his conflict-of-interest troubles seriously, that would be an important step in the right direction. The president-elect, however, appears to be missing the point of his problem.
President-elect Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president.
The plan may quickly run into a snag, however.
“The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” New York Attorney General spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said in a statement released Saturday.
In a statement, Trump said he would close his controversial charitable foundation “to avoid even the appearance of any conflict” with his role as president. But when it comes to Trump’s conflicts, his foundation was hardly at the top of the list of concerns: it’s his for-profit enterprises that are the basis for most of the controversies.
And since Trump can’t dissolve an entity while it’s still under investigation, even this half-step may not happen.
The president-elect nevertheless seems eager to talk about the end of his scandal-plagued foundation, arguing via Twitter last night that “all” of the money it raised was “given to charity.” He added soon after that “100%” of the millions raised went to “wonderful charities.”
We know Trump’s lying, in part because the Trump Foundation has already admitted that some of its money covered non-charitable expenses.
Trump used foundation money to buy giant portraits of himself. Trump used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions. Trump used foundation money to settle private-sector lawsuits. Trump used foundation money to support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions.
A month ago, the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that “it violated a legal prohibition against ‘self-dealing,’ which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.” The materials, filed with the IRS, were signed by Trump himself – so it’s not as if he can credibly claim he had no idea what was going on.
In other words, when Trump boasted last night that “100%” of the money raised by his foundation went to “wonderful charities,” it was one of the president-elect’s more obvious lies.