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Federal judge dismisses Trump’s lawsuit against N.Y. attorney general

Former president Donald Trump. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)
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NEW YORK — Former president Donald Trump’s lawsuit against the New York attorney general — which claimed that her long-term civil investigation into his business practices was an abuse of authority that needed to be stopped — has been dismissed by a federal judge in Syracuse, N.Y.

The former president’s attempt to halt Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) probe into the Trump Organization and its dealings with lenders and tax authorities was rejected in a 43-page decision made public Friday by U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes.

In a statement, James said her office would “continue this investigation undeterred,” suggesting that Trump has made efforts to “choose how the law” applies to him.

Trump sues New York attorney general in attempt to halt inquiry into his company

“Time and time again, the courts have made clear that Donald J. Trump’s baseless legal challenges cannot stop our lawful investigation into his and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” James said in a statement.

Trump attorney Alina Habba said the decision would be appealed and that the judge was wrong by declining to override a federal legal standard known as “Younger abstention” that defaults a matter to state court if a proceeding is ongoing there. Habba argued in court filings that James’s efforts were so unfair that the federal judge should have stepped in to stop it.

“There is no question that we will be appealing this decision,” Habba said in a statement. “If Ms. James’s egregious conduct and harassing investigation does not meet the bad faith exception to the Younger abstention doctrine, then I cannot imagine a scenario that would.”

A state court judge, Arthur Engoron, who has overseen a number of disputes between James’s team and Trump, has already refused to stop the investigation from proceeding. Engoron granted James’s past requests to enforce subpoenas with which Trump and other parties did not initially comply.

Trump sues New York attorney general in attempt to halt inquiry into his company

Engoron recently held Trump in contempt for failing to turn over records he was ordered to give to James in February. The contempt order was lifted after he met a set of conditions related to documenting a search for the records, which he said do not exist although the attorney general is still seeking additional documentation from Trump’s side.

Trump’s attorneys previously said in court papers that James’s statements on the campaign trail in which she promised to go after Trump and his company if elected disqualified her from overseeing an unbiased investigation and that her probe is politically motivated.

Trump claimed that the investigation is an infringement on his constitutional rights.

“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,” lawyers for Trump argued in his civil complaint.

Sannes noted in the decision that Trump could have made his claims against James years ago in federal court when he sued the Manhattan district attorney over subpoenas for his tax returns and related records. After reaching the Supreme Court, an accounting firm for Trump provided the documents to criminal investigators.

The district attorney is overseeing a parallel criminal probe into whether Trump illegally submitted bogus valuations on properties to try to get better loan rates and to reduce his tax liability. James’s office has partnered with the district attorney’s team and is providing additional resources.

Although Trump has not been indicted, District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) said the probe is ongoing, even after two senior prosecutors leading the investigation quit the case in protest earlier this year. Trump’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization were indicted last year under Bragg’s predecessor for an alleged 15-year tax avoidance scheme.

Trump maintains his innocence in connection to both investigations. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in New York Supreme Court.

Friday’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit also says interrupting James’s case would be an improper infringement on the elected official’s authority. James, the top attorney in the state, has previously branded the lawsuit one of many delaying tactics by the former president.

The dismissal comes a day after an appellate court panel in Manhattan ordered the former president and two of his adult children — Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. — to sit for depositions in James’s probe.