Trump sues New York prosecutor in attempt to stop inquiry into his business

The lawsuit argues that the attorney general, Letitia James, has long exhibited a political bias against the former president.

Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, seeking to halt her long-running civil investigation into his business practices and to bar her from participating in a separate criminal investigation.

The suit, filed in federal court in Albany, New York, by Trump and his family real estate business, argues that James’ involvement in both inquiries has been politically motivated. It lists statements she has made that Trump’s lawyers argue are evidence of her bias against him.

“Her mission is guided solely by political animus and a desire to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against a private citizen who she views as a political opponent,” the suit reads.

In a statement, James, a Democrat, said the lawsuit would not deter the inquiry.

“The Trump Organisation has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings,” the statement read. “To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organisation get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions.”

If James were to find evidence of wrongdoing, she could file a lawsuit against Trump, but because it is a civil inquiry, she could not file criminal charges.

Trump’s lawsuit comes less than two weeks after James signalled that she would seek to question Trump under oath early next month, on the same day that she dropped out of the race for New York governor.

“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general,” James said. “There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job.”

Trump’s lawyers said at the time that they would ask a judge to quash the subpoena, and they are still expected to do so in the coming days.

A lawyer for Trump, Alina Habba, said in a statement that Trump’s lawsuit was an effort to stop James’ “bitter crusade to punish her political opponent in its tracks.”

The developments in the civil investigation come during a critical phase of a separate, criminal investigation into the former president being conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Trump’s suit seeks to bar James’ participation in the criminal investigation as well, arguing that the parallel civil and criminal probes are inappropriate.

That investigation, which James’ office is participating in, is centered on whether Trump defrauded lenders by inflating the value of his assets.

Vance leaves office at the end of the year and has not yet signalled whether his investigation will be handed to his successor, Alvin Bragg.

James’ civil investigation began in March 2019, and she has focused on some of the same aspects of Trump’s business as Vance.

But Trump’s lawsuit against James argues that her “longstanding animosity” toward the former president and his company has essentially tainted the investigation.

The lawsuit argues that James violated Trump’s constitutional rights, robbed the former president of due process and attempted to chill his political speech.

It highlights a long list of public criticism she has levelled at Trump over the years, including a 2017 tweet declaring that she was “leading the resistance against Donald Trump in NYC.”

The lawsuit contends that James, the New York City public advocate at the time, campaigned for attorney general in part on an anti-Trump agenda.

During the campaign, James often invoked Trump on Twitter and in fundraising appeals, writing that, “New Yorkers need a fighter who will take on Donald Trump & stand up for our rights. I’ll be that fighter. Join my campaign.”

“I need your help in this fight against Donald Trump,” another message read.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Written by: Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum
Photographs by: Erin Schaff
© 2021 THE NEW YORK TIMES

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