Those who have been wondering why the seemingly open-and-shut case of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a supposed charity being used as little more than a slush fund for the family’s own benefit, has mustered only a civil case against the Foundation rather than a criminal one may soon see the other shoe drop: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is signaling that they will support a criminal investigation into the Foundation at the state attorney general’s discretion.
“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the state stands ready to provide the Attorney General with the appropriate criminal referral on this matter if and when she asks for it,” Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, said in a statement.
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood cannot pursue a criminal investigation without such approval; the filing of criminal charges against the Foundation would likely result in a halt to the current civil case, however, and so it’s more likely that Underwood will let the (strong) civil case play out before pursuing separate criminal charges.
That civil case will get underway in the fall, immediately before the midterm elections, and the presiding judge has dropped clear hints the Foundation is in a world of trouble. Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all named in the lawsuit and, at minimum, face the likely but trivial penalty of being barred from serving on the boards of other nonprofit groups for a year.
Given the seemingly transparent criminal nature of their actions, using a registered charity to personally enrich themselves, dodge taxes, and to strategically assist the Donald Trump presidential campaign, those penalties have long seemed embarrassingly petty. But Attorney General Underwood has already referred those actions to federal agencies for investigation; criminal charges by the state now seem likely as well.
Again, however, it’s not likely to be imminent. The state has a strong civil case against the Trump family, and the judge has indicated a desire to move that process along quickly. The state can afford to be patient and let that process play out before beginning a criminal case based on the same evidence. It’s not like the Trump family will be hard to find, when the time comes.