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

Then-President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 1, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Former president Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday in his latest attempt to halt her civil investigation into his business.

In the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Upstate New York on behalf of Trump and his real estate company, the former president alleges that James’s inquiry into his business practices has violated 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,” Trump claims in the suit.

News of the lawsuit was first reported by the New York Times.

James’s civil investigation is looking into whether Trump’s company committed financial fraud in the valuations of properties to different entities, according to people familiar with the matter.

In the Monday lawsuit, Trump refers to the investigation as a “witch hunt,” a term he frequently used during his time in the White House to describe the investigation into his 2016 election campaign, and accuses James of abusing her powers “to target her political adversaries and advance her career.”

“Since taking office, she has tirelessly bombarded [Trump], his family and his business, Trump Organization LLC, with unwarranted subpoenas in a bitter crusade to ‘take on’ the President,” the suit claims.

In a statement, James said neither Trump nor his company “get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions.” James noted that Trump has “continually” tried to slow down her investigation and said the new lawsuit is a “collateral attack” against her work.

“Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump,” James said.

Trump, in a statement, claimed his lawsuit is “not about delay” but “about our Constitution.”

“Despite many years of investigation that nobody else could have survived even if they did things just slightly wrong, [James’s] is just a continuation of the political Witch Hunt that has gone on against me by the Radical Left Democrats for years,” he said.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump and his company, doubled down on his criticism of James and claimed that she is targeting Trump “with a callous disregard for the ethical and moral obligations she swore to abide by when she became Attorney General.”

“By filing this lawsuit, we intend to not only hold her accountable for her blatant constitutional violations, but to stop her bitter crusade to punish her political opponent in its tracks,” Habba said.

The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after James signaled that she is seeking a deposition from Trump early next year as part of her investigation. She requested to take his testimony on Jan. 7 at her New York office. An attorney for Trump said then that the former president would fight the request in court.

Executives at Trump’s company earlier made an issue out of James’s criticism of Trump while campaigning for the attorney general post and claimed that she has threatened a lawsuit to score political points.

James’s investigation, which began in March 2019, is separate from a criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Vance’s investigation, which earlier this month entered a crucial phase, is looking into whether Trump defrauded lenders by giving widely different valuations for the same property at the same time. James’s office is assisting with this criminal investigation.

Because James’s is a civil investigation, she can file a lawsuit against Trump over her findings but can’t file criminal charges against him. However, Manhattan prosecutors — led by Vance — have convened a new grand jury to consider potential criminal charges related to the company’s financial practices, according to the people familiar with the investigations. Vance, who is set to retire at the end of the month, has not signaled whether he will bring criminal charges against Trump.

Earlier this month, James announced that she was ending her bid for governor and would run for reelection instead, saying she wanted to continue her work as attorney general and “finish the job” on several “important investigations and cases.”

Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.