Back in 2016, Donald and Ivanka Trump were both warned that their family business was overcharging Trump’s nonprofit inaugural committee. Despite the warning the Trump’s let it continue a new lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C. attorney general on Wednesday states.
Attorney General Karl Racine filed a civil complaint that charges the Trump Organization with improperly using an estimated $1 million in charitable funds to improperly enrich themselves.
Concerns were first raised back in 2016 by Stephanie Wolkoff, an event planner. Wolkoff took her concerns directly to Donald and Ivanka Trump. She says she expressed concerns that the Trump International Hotel in Washington was overcharging the inaugural committee.
“Wolkoff met with President-elect Trump and Ivanka Trump and discussed these concerns with both individuals,” the new lawsuit says. “The President-elect acknowledged these concerns and directed that Ivanka Trump would handle this issue.”
The lawsuit complaint accuses the Trump Organization, the inaugural committee, and the Trump hotel of “subverting the public purpose of a charity for the Trump family’s private benefit.”
The complaint is centered around a four-day rental agreement for the Trump hotel’s ballroom and other spaces. The Trump family was paid “far above market rate” internal documents in possession of the attorney general shows.
Despite Wolkoff’s objections, the Trump inaugural committee paid the Trump Organization. Wolkoff has stated that Ivanka Trump was well aware of the situation.
“The president was focused on the transition during that time and not on any of the planning for the inauguration,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement back in December 2018.
According to Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump, she had only been contacted once about inauguration spending.
“Ms. Trump was not involved in any additional discussions,” Mirijanian said.
However, documents obtained by the attorney general prove that there was a much deeper involvement.
Reportedly the documents show that Ivanka Trump was made aware of the issue involving overpayment back on Dec. 12, 2016, in an email from Rick Gates, who was the deputy to the inaugural chairman. Ivanka Trump responded to the email on December 14. Then on December 16, Wolkoff raised concerns again this time in person with both Donald and Ivanka Trump. Wolkoff says that she objected to the rates proposed by the Trump hotel.
“These events are in PE’s [the president-elect’s] honor at his hotel and one of them is for family and close friends,” Wolkoff wrote in an email to Ivanka and Gates. “Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge.”
Despite Wolkoff’s objections, the inaugural committee finalized the contract. The final contract was for $175,000 per day. The lawsuit claims that the committee was also charged for space on additional days when it was not in use.
The complaint says that one event, a private reception at Trump Hotel costs over $300,000 “benefiting only the children of the President.”
“DJT is not expected to attend but was more for you, Don and Eric,” Gates wrote in an email to Ivanka Trump before the event took place.
“The AG’s claims are false, intentionally misleading and riddled with inaccuracies. The rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude and were reflective of the fact that [sic] hotel had just recently opened, possessed superior facilities and was centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The AG’s after the fact attempt to regulate what discounts it believes the hotel should have provided as well as the timing of this complaint reeks of politics and is a clear PR stunt,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in an email.
The attorney general’s lawsuit is asking that the court order the Trump Organization to put at least $1,033,757 in trust, so the money can be allocated “to another nonprofit entity dedicated to promoting civic engagement of the citizens of the United States of America.”