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Trump Sues N.Y. AG James to Halt State Probe of His Business (2)

Dec. 20, 2021, 4:54 PM

Former President Donald Trump sued New York Attorney General Letitia James, claiming the Democrat’s investigation of his sprawling real-estate company is being done solely for political gain.

The state probe is a “baseless” and “malicious” fishing expedition intended to harass Trump and violates his constitutional rights, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Albany, New York. James had been seeking to depose Trump under oath on Jan. 7 as part of the two-year investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“For years, she has flagrantly abused her investigatory powers to target her political adversaries and advance her career,” Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said in the complaint. “Her relentless attacks on Donald J. Trump serve as a prime example.”

James, who suspended her run for governor of New York earlier this month, began the probe in 2019 to determine if Trump’s Manhattan-based company had been manipulating the value of key assets for tax and insurance purposes. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen triggered the probe after he handed Congress a trove of Trump financial records and testified that his former boss “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes” and “deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

In a statement, James said the lawsuit follows multiple attempts by Trump and his company to delay the investigation, including by refusing to comply with subpoenas until being ordered to do so by a court.

“To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions,” James said. “Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump.”

Read More: Trump Deposition Sought in N.Y. Civil Probe of His Business

The suit includes pages of what Trump describes as evidence of James’s political motivations for investigating him, including an August 2018 tweet she posted before she took office, commenting on reports that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, was seeking a plea deal.

“You & your cronies aren’t above the law. Every day we’re getting closer to justice,” James said in the tweet. “Just wait until I’m in the Attorney General’s office.”

Eric Trump, one of the former president’s sons and an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, was deposed by state investigators in October 2020 after fighting in court to delay the questioning.

In July, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., in cooperation with James, charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with an array crimes associated with untaxed benefits the executive had received, including the use of luxury cars and apartments. Weisselberg and the company have denied wrongdoing.

The Trump Organization has long argued the investigations are politically motivated. In May, Trump issued a statement accusing James and Vance of being “possessed, at an unprecedented level, with destroying the political fortunes of President Donald J. Trump.”

A major focus of James’s probe has been the Trump Organization’s appraisal of Seven Springs, a 212-acre estate in Westchester County, New York. Her office has been trying to determine whether the company gave an accurate valuation for the property when it served as the basis for about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.

Trump’s 40 Wall Street skyscraper and his Chicago hotel are among the other properties being scrutinized in the attorney general’s probe, which overlapped with the Manhattan district attorney’s broad investigation of possible bank, mortgage and tax fraud.

(Updates with comment from Letitia James)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

Steve Stroth

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.