Trump Foundation ordered to stop fundraising by New York state prosecutor

The foundation received a 'cease and desist letter' from officials

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The Independent US

The top state prosecutor in New York has notified Donald Trump that his charitable foundation is violating state law – by soliciting donations without proper certification – and ordered the charity to stop its fundraising immediately.

James Sheehan, head of the attorney general’s charities bureau, sent the “notice of violation” to the Donald J Trump Foundation on Friday, according to reports. 

“The failure immediately to discontinue solicitation and to file information and reports ... with the Charities Bureau shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York,” said the letter, subsequently posted online.

The move came after The Washington Post reported last week that the campaign lacked a required state certification that would allow it to request funding from the public. Mr Trump organised a veterans’ event after cancelling a primary debate appearance in January and collected $1.67m (£1.3m) through a website directing donations to the foundation.

The newspaper said Mr Trump’s charitable foundation, which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family, has never obtained the certification that New York state requires before charities can solicit money from the public. 

Under state law, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Mr Trump’s must also submit to a rigorous annual audit.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s office said last week it had opened an inquiry into Mr Trump’s Foundation, which has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks.

The Internal Revenue Service fined Mr Trump earlier this year for using his charity to donate $25,000 to a political organisation for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and reporting in its public forms that the money was for a similarly named charity instead.

Such organisations are not allowed to make political contributions and the donation came as Ms Bondi’s office was reportedly looking into the now-defunct Trump University, which currently faces a lawsuit from Mr Schneiderman’s office. Both Ms Bondi and Mr Trump have both denied the contribution was connected to the case.

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More recently, the Post reported that Mr Trump used his foundation to help settle a series of lawsuits against his private businesses, a move that experts say may have violated laws on “self-dealing”.

The Trump campaign has previously denounced Mr Schneiderman, a Democrat supporting Hillary Clinton for president, as politically motivated.

"While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind AG Schneiderman's investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation,” Mr Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said in a statement on Monday. 

“Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the Trump Foundation will not comment further at this time.”