In January 2016, Donald Trump decided to boycott a Fox News debate, charging that moderators – including Megyn Kelly – had been unfair to him at the previous event. Instead of showing up to that debate, Trump held a separate event in which he donated the proceeds to veterans’ charity groups. Later, amidst some reported problems regarding the distribution of those funds, the Trump Foundation and the Trump Campaign were forced to defend their actions in court. Ultimately, the New York Supreme Court found sufficient cause to demand that Trump pay $2 million in damages.
On the surface, this can be construed to look like a really terrible story for President Trump. A quick glance at the basic facts of the case can easily make it look like Trump held a charity event for veterans and then pocketed the money that was raised. And that’s exactly what South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg tried to claim at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate.
“Under normal circumstances a president would leave office after something that was revealed recently that barely got any attention at all, which was the president had to confess in writing, in court to illegally diverting charitable contributions that were supposed to go to veterans,” said Buttigieg.
The 2020 candidate is not the only one spreading this story. Earlier this month, Virginia Democrat Qasim Rashid was one of many liberals on social media accusing Trump of this ultra-low form of thievery.
“The President stole $2.8M in charity from Veterans & spent it on himself & admits to his crime in court documents,” Rashid tweeted. “As you speak of honor & service—Where is your accountability of a President who trampled on both?”
There’s only one problem with this narrative. It isn’t true.
In November 2019, the New York Supreme Court ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages for the waste incurred when his 2016 presidential campaign orchestrated and benefited from the distribution of funds to veterans groups, which had been donated by the public.
However, neither Trump, nor his children Ivanka and Eric, nor his foundation, were found to have “stolen” or kept any of the donations, and so none of them “admitted to” any such actions. The New York Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged that all the funds raised for veterans groups had ultimately reached veterans groups.
All the funds were distributed to the veterans groups. This is a case about whether or not the Trump Foundation and the Trump Campaign distributed these funds in an efficient manner, and the court found that they did not. But there was no thievery. The charity reached its intended recipients. No one stole any money.
The Democrats are lying. Again.