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Donald Trump's 'Boring' Scandal Now Has a Smoking Gun

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | September 20, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | September 20, 2016 |

Last week, we wrote at length about the kind of coverage Donald Trump gets compared to Hillary Clinton, and remarked that the equivalency problem is caused in some respects by the fact that Clinton only has two major scandals (the email server and the Clinton Foundation) that the media devotes all of their time to, while the press doesn’t have enough time and resources to cover all of Trump’s many, many scandals in a deep, substantive way.

David Fahrenthold over at the Washington Post, however, has been going Spotlight on the Donald J. Trump Foundation, digging into this one specific issue and uncovering a lot of improprieties, self-dealing, and what appears to be money laundering.

Fahrenthold has now upped the ante by finding another impropriety, and this one seems to be more damning than the rest. According to Fahrenthold’s report, Donald Trump used $258,000 from his own charity to settle legal disputes. Trump made a habit of settling legal disputes by offering to donate money to charity, and then he used money from his own charity to make those donations. In one case, for instance, he used $100,000 from his charity to settle a legal dispute over the size of a flagpole at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. In another lawsuit, he offered to pay $150,000 to the plaintiff’s charity, using money from his nonprofit to make the donation.

There’s also a second instance where he used $10,000 from his foundation to buy another painting of himself.

It’s important to keep in mind, also, that Trump hasn’t actually contributed to his own charitable foundation since 2008, so all the money that he used to settle legal disputes came from other people, whose money was presumably earmarked for various charities.

There are a number of problems here. From an ethical perspective, Trump was running a charitable organization in a way that contravened the spirit of a nonprofit regulations. This wasn’t a charity. It was a self-dealing operation. He also clearly used the foundation to avoid paying taxes, which is illegal.

What kind of “illegal” remains an open question. Is it an indictable offense? Is this the kind of thing that can lead to Trump being imprisoned? Or is this just one of offenses that results in a large fine and a slap on the wrist? I’m not sure, but it should give additional ammunition to New York’s Attorney General, who is currently investigating Trump’s family foundation.

Is this the little scandal that could? Will it be to Trump’s presidency what tax evasion was to Al Capone? That still remains to be seen, but given how Trump has lashed out when the media uncovers other scandals, expect Trump to return to his petty ways on Twitter.

Dustin Rowles does not use pictures of Donald Trump to save our readers the sight of him. Kristen Bell is featured today, because her new sitcom The Good Place debuted on NBC last night, and it was terrific. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.