In June, Underwood filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, as well as against Trump himself and the three eldest Trump children.
She has accused Trump of allowing “a shocking pattern of illegality” at the charity — saying that Trump used it to pay legal settlements for his for-profit businesses, to buy portraits of himself and to boost his presidential campaign by paying for giveaways at his Iowa rallies.
On Tuesday, Underwood announced that Trump had agreed to dissolve the foundation and to distribute its remaining $1.7 million to charities approved by Underwood and a New York state judge.
Trump did not admit to wrongdoing in that agreement. And the agreement does not stop Underwood’s lawsuit: She is still asking a court to impose millions of dollars in fines and penalties on Trump and to ban Trump and his children from serving on the boards of other New York nonprofits.
The attack on Underwood was odd, because she is a nonpolitician who has maintained a low public profile during her short time in office.
Underwood is a former U.S. solicitor general who was working as New York’s solicitor general, an appointed position. She did not run for New York’s attorney general but rather succeeded former attorney general Eric Schneiderman (D), who resigned in May after the New Yorker published allegations that he had physically abused women.
Underwood inherited an investigation into the Trump Foundation that Schneiderman had started in 2016, responding to reporting on the charity by The Washington Post.
“AG Underwood believes that there should be one set of rules for everyone — no matter who they are,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Underwood, in a written message after Trump’s tweets. “That’s why she filed suit against the Trump Foundation, after an investigation found a shocking pattern of flagrant and repeated illegality — including willful self-dealing to serve Mr. Trump and his business and political interests.”
In his tweets on Wednesday, Trump attacked Schneiderman and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D).
“I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long running civil lawsuit started by.....sleazebag AG Eric Schneiderman, who has since resigned over horrific women abuse,” Trump wrote.
Trump has already asked a judge to throw out this lawsuit on the grounds that Schneiderman and Underwood were biased against him.
Trump also sought to defend his foundation, noting that he had taken “NO fees, rent, salaries etc” out of the foundation’s budget.
The Trump Foundation was, indeed, a low-overhead operation. It had no employees or offices of its own but rather relied on Trump Organization staffers to cut its checks.
But the crux of Underwood’s case is that Trump still used the charity to benefit himself — but not by paying himself a salary directly. Rather, she said, he used the charity’s money to pay bills that should have been paid by his businesses.
According to the suit, Trump used $258,000 of the charity’s money to pay legal settlements owed by his Mar-a-Lago Club and one of his golf clubs. That, Underwood said, violated a bedrock principle of charity law: that a charity’s money must be used for charity and can’t be used for the private benefit of the charity’s leaders.
In his tweets Wednesday, Trump also criticized the next New York attorney general, Letitia James (D), who was elected in November. Underwood did not run for the office and will return to serving as New York solicitor general, an unelected position under the attorney general.
James, Trump said, “openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda.”
The incoming attorney general told NBC News that she plans to investigate several aspects of Trump’s life when she takes office. Beyond the Trump Foundation, she told NBC that she wants to examine whether Trump’s business broke tax laws and whether it violated the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments.