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Trump sues New York attorney general, seeking to end civil investigation

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NEW YORK – Former President Donald Trump sued New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday, seeking to end his civilian investigation into his business practices.

In the lawsuit, filed two weeks after James asked Trump to sit for a deposition on Jan. 7, Trump alleges the investigation violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly veiled effort to publicly slander Trump and his associates.”

“Her mission is guided only by political animosity and the desire to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a private citizen whom she considers a political opponent,” the former president’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

Trump, a Republican, is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting James, a Democrat, from investigating him and a declaratory judgment declaring that she violated his rights.

Messages requesting comment were left at James’ office and Trump’s attorneys. News of the lawsuit filed in Albany federal court was first reported by The New York Times.

James has spent more than two years investigating whether Trump’s firm, the Trump Organization, misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets – by inflating them for favorable loan terms or by blowing them up. minimizing to achieve tax savings.

James investigators last year interviewed one of Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, an executive with the Trump Organization, as part of the investigation. His office went to court to enforce a subpoena against young Trump, and a judge forced him to testify after his lawyers abruptly quashed a previously scheduled deposition.

James’ request for Donald Trump’s testimony, first reported on December 9, was the first step in a process that will now likely lead to a subpoena and a judge to order him to cooperate if he refuses .

It is rare for law enforcement to issue a civil subpoena for the testimony of a person who is also the subject of a related criminal investigation. In part, this is because the person under criminal investigation could simply invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Trump’s lawyers are unlikely to allow his impeachment unless they are sure his testimony cannot be used against him in a criminal case.

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 was involved in both. Earlier this year, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. gained access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax records after a years-long fight that twice went to the Supreme Court. the United States.

Vance, who is stepping down at the end of the year, recently called a new grand jury to hear evidence as he questions whether he should seek more indictments in the inquest, which has resulted in tax evasion charges in July against the Trump organization and its longtime CFO. Allen Weisselberg.

Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges alleging that he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative employee benefits paid to executives.

Both investigations are at least in part linked to allegations made in news reports and by former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen that Trump had a habit of distorting asset values.

James’ office has issued subpoenas to local governments in connection with the civil investigation into the files concerning Trump’s property north of Manhattan, Seven Springs, and a tax benefit Trump received for placing land in a conservation trust. Vance subsequently issued subpoenas requesting many of the same files.

James’ office also looked at similar issues with a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles. His office has also won a series of court rulings forcing Trump’s company and a law firm it hired to hand over treasure troves of documents.

James had announced her candidacy for governor of New York in late October, but earlier this month she suspended that campaign and cited ongoing investigations in her decision to be re-elected as attorney general of the State.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak.



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