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Donald Trump Announces Intention to Dissolve Charitable Foundation

President-elect Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president. The New York Attorney General's Office said he would be unable to do so, however. 'The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,' a spokesperson said.
Image: Donald Trump
President-elect Donald Trump takes a question from a member of the media at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. Trump on Thursday abruptly called for the United States to "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability" until the rest of the world "comes to its senses" regarding nuclear weapons. Trump made the statement on Twitter and did not expand on either the actions he wants the U.S. to take or the issues he sees around the world. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Andrew Harnik / AP

President-elect Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president.

The plan may quickly run into a snag, however.

"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," New York Attorney General spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said in a statement released Saturday.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office ordered the Donald J. Trump Foundation to "immediately cease soliciting contributions" in October, after a report that the charity lacked the proper authorization to seek public donations.

Trump has not donated to the foundation since 2008 but it has received tens of millions of dollars over the past 10 years.

"The Foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children," Trump said in a statement. "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 statement did not clarify the means in which he planned to continue his charitable interests.

Trump’s foundation came under scrutiny during the election over how its funds were used, with money going toward settling legal disputes among Trump’s business empire. Some charity experts consider this act unethical and it could violate federal tax law.

Related: What We Know About the Trump Foundation Controversies

A Trump campaign spokesman has called the New York investigation "partisan." Schneiderman is a Democrat and endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Trump appeared to dispute any conflicts or misuse of funds in his statement Saturday.

"I am very proud of the money that has been raised for many organizations in need, and I am also very proud of the fact that the Foundation has operated at essentially no cost for decades, with 100% of the money going to charity, 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, I don’t want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest," Trump said.

However, documents first reported by the Washington Post and later reviewed by NBC News showed that Trump had used $258,000 to settle two separate lawsuits. One such lawsuit was with the town of Palm Beach over the height of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago flagpole.

The Post also reported that the foundation had purchased a $20,000 six-foot portrait of Trump, which may also violate federal tax law.

The Democratic National Committee criticized Trump's move in a sharply worded statement.

"Trump’s announcement today is a wilted fig leaf to cover up his remaining conflicts of interest and his pitiful record of charitable giving," DNC spokesman Eric Walker said in the statement.

"Shuttering a charity is no substitute for divesting from his for-profit business and putting the assets in a blind trust — the only way to guarantee separation between the Trump administration and the Trump business," he added.

The Trump Foundation became embroiled in an additional controversy and was fined by the IRS for donating $25,000 to a political organization connected to Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi.

The Florida attorney general is now a member of Trump's transition, but at the time her office was considering investigating Trump University for fraud, which raised another instance for the president-elect about a potential conflict of interest.

Bondi’s office did not open an investigation. A Bondi spokeswoman has said due diligence was done in the case and similar litigation in New York would provide relief to consumers nationwide.

Trump has denied that the donation had anything to do with Bondi’s office mulling an investigation, and a spokesperson called it a "minor issue." The IRS fine was levied after an ethics group complained that the donation had not been disclosed to tax officials.

Related: Pay-for-Play Questions Continue to Swirl Around Trump Team

Since their father won the election, his children have tried to raise money for their own foundation by putting their name and access up for sale.

Eric Trump attempted to sell a coffee meeting with his sister Ivanka Trump, which was abruptly cancelled when the New York Times reported on the fundraiser. A number of wealthy business people had pushed the highest bid to $70,000. Eric has since decided to suspend his foundation to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

A separate organization named Opening Day, which lists Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. as its directors, attempted to sell a hunting trip with the president-elect's sons as well as a photo-op and private meeting with Donald Trump for $1 million.

Opening Day no longer lists the Trump sons and the event does advertise a photo-op with the president-elect.

"The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family," said Trump Press Secretary Hope Hicks in a statement Tuesday.