On Monday, former President Donald Trump sued New York Attorney General Letitia James, according to a bombshell report from The New York Times.
Trump has been accused of — but not formally charged with — inflating the value of his assets to get favorable loans from banks. James is assisting local prosecutors’ probe into this issue.
Trump contends the probe has violated his constitutional liberties, including freedom of speech, the right to due process, and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure. In the lawsuit, Trump’s legal team called the probe a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”
The lawsuit describes James, a Democrat, as having “personal disdain for Trump” and points to dozens of statements she’s made targeting him in recent years, including her support of “die-in” protests against him, her boast that her office sued his administration 76 times and tweets during her 2018 campaign that she had her “eyes on Trump Tower” and that Trump was “running out of time.”
The lawsuit said, “Three days after she was sworn in as Attorney General, Defendant told CNN that she would ‘ensure that the man currently occupying the Oval Office is held accountable to [sic] any and everything he has done.’ Defendant further stated that she would ‘never be afraid to challenge this illegitimate president “and that investigating Trump ‘fuels [her] soul.'”
“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.”
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In a statement, James responded: “The Trump Organization has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings and now Donald Trump and his namesake company have filed a lawsuit as an attempted collateral attack on that investigation.”
“To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions. Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump.”
Trump hit back. In a statement to the Times, he denied any intent to delay the charges.
“This is not about delay, this is about our Constitution!” he wrote.
James has revealed her political ambitions in the past. She announced a run for New York governor in late October, but earlier this month, she suspended that campaign amid low poll numbers. She cited ongoing investigations in her decision to instead seek reelection as state attorney general.
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Trump, a Republican, seeks a permanent injunction barring James from investigating him and preventing her from being involved in any “civil or criminal” investigations against him and his company, such as a parallel criminal probe she’s a part of that’s being led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is conducting a parallel criminal investigation into Trump’s business dealings. Although the civil investigation is separate, James’ office has been involved in both.
Some legal experts spoke to the Times. They said that Trump faces an uphill battle. He made a similar argument — unsuccessfully — about Vance in front of the Supreme Court in February.
“Even if she has political beliefs about Trump, there are legitimate claims that have been raised about the conduct of the Trump Organization and Trump himself that would justify the investigations,” Jonathan M. Smith, the executive director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, told the paper.
However, the experts acknowledged Trump’s prospect for success on one charge: abusing the office of the attorney general in violation of the law.
“The abuse of process is the one that I think comes closest,” Mr. Smith said. “If they can actually show that her purpose is retaliatory or politically motivated, that violates the ethics rules.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.