Under scrutiny, Trump decides to dissolve his foundation

Dec 24 (Reuters) - U.S President-elect Donald Trump said on Saturday he intends to dissolve his charitable foundation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has been under investigation by the New York attorney general.

Trump gave no timeline for winding down the foundation, but said in a statement that he wanted "to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President." He directed his counsel to take the necessary steps for the dissolution.


With less than four weeks to his Jan. 20 inauguration, the New York real estate magnate is under increasing pressure to reduce potential conflicts of interest ranging from his vast global business operations to his family's philanthropic work.

This week, Trump said his son Eric would stop raising money for his own foundation over concerns that donors could be seen as buying access to the Trump family. The president-elect said it was a "ridiculous shame" that his son's foundation would stop raising money.

Before Trump's surprising election victory on Nov. 8, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in October directed the Donald J. Trump Foundation to stop taking donations, saying the foundation violated state law requiring charitable organizations that solicit outside donations to register with a state office.

Schneiderman's order followed a series of reports in The Washington Post that suggested improprieties by the foundation, including using its funds to settle legal disputes involving Trump businesses.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said on Saturday that Trump cannot shutter the foundation while the investigation is ongoing.

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Donald Trump's 'USA thank you' tour
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Donald Trump's 'USA thank you' tour
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump throws a cap to the audience as he speaks during a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar 
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 . REUTERS/William Philpott
A protester walks out of the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 . REUTERS/William Philpott
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence hold a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016". REUTERS/William Philpott
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016". REUTERS/William Philpott
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 01: Guests listen as President-elect Donald Trump speaks at U.S. Bank Arena on December 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Trump took time off from selecting the cabinet for his incoming administration to celebrate his victory in the general election. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son speak to the press after meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Supporters cheer for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican presidential then nominee Donald Trump and Ben Carson walk to Carson's childhood home in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/ File photo
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump greets members of the press at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said. She would not comment on expected timing for completing the investigation.

Trump said he was "very proud" of the money raised by the foundation and said it had operated at "essentially no cost for decades."

"But because I will be devoting so much time and energy to the Presidency and solving the many problems facing our country and the world," he added in his statement, "I don't want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest."

The Trump Foundation, which was established in 1988, runs no programs of its own. Instead, it donates to other nonprofit groups such as the Police Athletic League for youths.

FAMILY FACED CRITICISM

Scrutiny of the Trump family's philanthropic activities heightened in recent weeks following reports of access to the family for potential donors.

Eric Trump faced criticism for an online auction sponsored by his foundation, which raises money to help terminally ill children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, offering the highest bidder a chance to have coffee with his sister Ivanka.

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First Family: Getting to know Eric Trump
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First Family: Getting to know Eric Trump

Eric Trump is President-elect Donald Trump's third child with his first wife Ivana Trump. 

Caption: Ivana Trump, Eric Trump, her former husband Donald Trump and her daughter Ivanka Trump in 1998. (Getty)

Eric attended The Hill School, a strict boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. 

Caption: Ivana Trump and Eric Trump in 1996. (Getty)

Eric attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He is the only one of the adult Trump siblings that did not attend their father's alma mater University of Pennsylvania. 

Caption: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump (Reuters) 

Eric is a reality tv star just like his father. He has made appearances alongside the president-elect on The Apprentice as a boardroom judge from 2010-2015. 

Caption: Donald Trump (C) and his sons Eric F. Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (R) attend the 'Celebrity Apprentice All Stars' Season 13 Press Conference in 2012. (Getty)

Eric Trump married his wife Laura in 2014. She is a producer for CBS' Inside Edition. 

Instagram caption: "Amazing that our anniversary is also Election Day! Happy anniversary @laraleatrump 🇺🇸🇺🇸"

Eric founded the Eric Trump Foundation when he was 23-years-old. The charity aims at raising money for children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The organization's website says they have "donated and pledged nearly $30 million dollars to St. Jude."

Instagram caption: "So proud of our @erictrumpfdn Road Scholar truck! It's dedicated to the children of @stjude"

Eric runs the Trump Organization's golf courses. Since joining the organization in 2013, Eric increased the number of international golf courses from three to 17.

Instagram caption: "Beautiful day to play at Trump National Jupiter @larayunaska"

While speaking on the campaign trail in October, Eric Trump mistakenly introduced then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence as the Governor of Illinois. Pence is the governor of Indiana. The 32-year-old chalked it up to a slip of the tongue. 

Caption: Vice President-elect, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (C) is greeted by Eric Trump (R), son of President-elect Donald Trump. (Getty)

Eric made headlines on Election day after he tweeted a photo of his ballot while voting for his dad. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before garnering over 3,000 retweets and over 8,000 likes. 

It is illegal in New York to share a photo of your election ballot.

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After the announcement that Eric would not be allowed to raise money for his foundation, Trump tweeted: "He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them, and now must stop. Wrong answer!"

Trump's critics, however, remembered how the president-elect had attacked his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, over their family foundation. In August, Trump urged the Justice Department to investigate the Clinton Foundation, which he called a "pay-to-play" operation that rewarded big donors with favors from the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state.

Eric Trump and his brother Donald Trump Jr. also came under fire this week for their role in a post-inauguration charity event that offered a private reception with their father in exchange for a $1 million donation.

The brothers were listed on a draft invitation as honorary co-chairmen of the fundraiser for conservation charities, dubbed "Opening Day," set to be held in Washington the day after the Jan. 20 inauguration.

On Tuesday, the Trump transition team said Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump were not involved with the fundraiser and a subsequent invitation dropped references to donors meeting with any members of the Trump family.

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