Can Donald Trump Close His Foundation? Not So Fast, Mr. President-Elect

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The president-elect announced Saturday that the Donald J. Trump Foundation will shut down soon, but the timeline won't be on Trump's terms. According to Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for the new York attorney general's office, Trump "cannot legally dissolve" the charity until the AG's office completes its ongoing investigations into the foundation for two highly publicized scandals.  

Trump's announcement that the foundation would shut down heavily glossed over the investigation, which was announced back in September. “The Foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups... However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways.”

The investigations into the foundation include allegations of self-dealing, the financial benefit of people highly involved in the organization, to which the organization openly admitted in its 2015 tax returns. The other investigation of the foundation is for his dealings with Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, whom he alleged paid $25,000 to avoid a probe of his fraudulent enterprise, Trump University. Trump paid a $25 million settlement to victims of the Trump U fraud earlier this year.

Neither of these potential charges are likely to prevent Trump from assuming the presidency. Self-dealing only carries a maximum penalty from the IRS of a $20,000 fine, and charities aiding political candidates can merely be subject to losing their tax exempt status and excise taxes, neither of which will be an issue now that Trump plans to shutter the foundation. The symbolism of the charges are the most consequential thing that could potentially come out of these investigations, but they also are unlikely to matter much. Given everything that Trump has said and done, these allegations are not likely to change any Trump supporters' minds.

The only sweet revenge for anti-Trumpers is that the timeline of the investigations will be out of Trump's hands. He very clearly has control issues, and being put in his place a little bit by not being able to decide the closing of the foundation on his own terms will hopefully teach him some humility. Once again, that seems unlikely, but one can hope since he ostensibly won't learn his lesson from the legal consequences. The investigations could eventually reveal more information about potential wrongdoing — like Trump, the American public will have to wait and see.