New York governor opens door to criminal case against Trump Foundation

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the commemoration of the Elton John AIDS Foundation 25th year fall gala at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, in New York, U.S. November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday opened the door to a possible criminal case against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, but the state attorney general's office said it had not determined that a criminal referral was warranted.

"At Governor Cuomo's direction, the state stands ready to provide the (New York) Attorney General with the appropriate criminal referral on this matter if and when she asks for it," Alphonso David, the governor's counsel, said in a statement.

The state's attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil lawsuit against President Donald Trump, three of his children and his foundation in June, saying Trump had illegally used the nonprofit as a personal "checkbook" for his own benefit, including his 2016 presidential campaign.

Underwood would need a criminal referral to file a criminal suit.

"We continue to evaluate the evidence to determine what additional actions may be warranted, and will seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary," Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Underwood, said in a statement.

Underwood asked a state judge in June to dissolve the Foundation and to ban Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and his daughter Ivanka from holding leadership roles in New York charities.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Eric Beech)