U.S president Donald Trump has been ordered by a judge to pay $2million in damages for illegally using funds intended for charity to boost his 2016 presidential election campaign.
The US president admitted to personally misusing the money, according to the New York’s attorney general, despite having previously denied any wrongdoing.
The humiliating fine adds to Trump’s woes that include several investigations into allegations that he is using public office for self-enrichment, as well as an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives.
In a defiant statement issued on Thursday evening, though, Trump suggested he was neither sorry nor in the wrong.
“I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity (19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State,” he wrote.
He assailed a series of Democratic attorneys general of New York who were involved with the suit, saying they should have spent their time investigating the Clinton Foundation.
“It has been 4 years of politically motivated harassment,” Trump said.
Trump’s foundation will be dissolved and its $1.7 million in remaining funds will be given to other nonprofits, under agreements reached by Trump’s lawyers and the attorney general’s office.
As part of those agreements, made public on Thursday, the two sides left it up to the judge to decide what penalty Trump should pay.
The settlement was an about-face for Trump. He had tweeted, “I won’t settle this case!” when it was filed in June 2018.
Trump’s fine and the charity’s funds will be split evenly among eight organisations, including Citymeals on Wheels, the United Negro College Fund and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Attorney General Letitia James welcomed the resolution of the case as a “major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain”.
The president admitted, among other things, to arranging for the charity to pay $10,000 for a 6-foot portrait of him. He also agreed to pay back $11,525 in foundation funds that he spent on sports memorabilia and champagne at a charity gala.
Trump also accepted restrictions on his involvement in other charitable organisations. His three eldest children, who were members of the foundation’s board, must undergo mandatory training on the duties of those who run charities.
The Trump Foundation said it was pleased by those decisions, claiming that the judge “recognised that every penny ever raised by the Trump Foundation has gone to help those most in need”.
Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas said the nonprofit has distributed approximately $19 million over the past decade, including $8.25 million of the president’s own money, to hundreds of charitable organisations.