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What We Know About the Trump Foundation Controversies

The drama over the foundation's alleged misuse of money intensified Monday after New York’s attorney general ordered it to stop collecting donations.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/John Locher)John Locher / AP

Donald Trump’s non-profit foundation has come under increasing scrutiny after a string of revelations that the GOP presidential contender may have misused money meant for charity.

On Monday, the drama over these alleged misdeeds intensified after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a “Notice of Violation” letter ordering the foundation to “immediately cease soliciting contributions.”

Here’s what we know so far:

What are the controversies surrounding Trump Foundation?

The foundation has received tens of millions of dollars in donations over the last decade, but Trump has personally contributed nothing to its coffers since 2008, records show.

And documents reviewed by NBC News last month revealed that foundation money was used to settle legal disputes from Trump’s business enterprises. This practice may violate federal tax law and charity experts described it as unethical.

The documents, which were first reported by the Washington Post, showed, among other things, that $258,000 in donations to the foundation were used to settle two separate lawsuits, including one with the town of Palm Beach over the height of a flag pole at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Earlier this year, the IRS fined Trump’s charity for donating $25,000 to a political organization connected to Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi. At the time, her office was considering investigating another Trump enterprise, Trump University, over alleged fraud, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. No investigation was pursued, but non-profits are barred from donating to political entities.

Separately, the foundation also purchased a $20,000, six-foot portrait of the candidate, which may also violate federal tax law, the Post reported.

Why did Schneiderman issue the notice now?

The letter, which was obtained by NBC News, came after the Washington Post reported last week that the foundation didn’t have the required certification allowing it to solicit public donations.

(After canceling a debate appearance earlier this year, Trump collected $1.67 million through a website,, that he said would be donated to veterans.)

Unless the foundation provides that certification within 15 days, the notice states, the foundation "shall be deemed a continuing fraud upon the people of New York."

Schneiderman is a Democrat who supports Hilary Clinton, and unlike his Republican counterpart in Florida, he’s suing the GOP candidate over alleged fraud at the for-profit "Trump University." Schneiderman told NBC News last month that his correspondence with the foundation began in June. But he declined to discuss the allegations that his office is examining, though he promised to handle the process fairly and described the inquiry as “standard operating procedure.”

“I am like a traffic cop,” Schneiderman said. “If someone drives by going 90 miles per hour, then I give them a ticket.”

What does Trump say?

After news of Shcneiderman's inquiry broke last month, campaign spokesman Jason Miller described the attorney general as a “partisan hack who has turned a blind eye to the Clinton Foundation for years."

In a toned-down statement released Monday, the campaign said that despite its concerns about Schneiderman it would cooperate with his investigation.

Trump himself dismissed questions about his contribution to Florida's attorney general, saying that "he never spoke" to her about his university.

But asked last month by Full Measure host Sharyl Attkisson if he was “confident that the Trump Foundation has followed all charitable rules and laws," he said: “Well, I hope so, I mean, my lawyers do it. We give away money, I don't make anything, I take no salaries, I take no — any costs, I have zero costs, and a lot of money goes through the Trump Foundation into charities. Goes to charities, it doesn't go to me, it goes to charities."

The foundation lists five officers on its IRS forms, including Trump, his three eldest children, and a treasurer, Alan Weisselberg, who is the CFO of the Trump Organization. No attorney is mentioned.