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Donald Trump loses court battle to halt NY investigation

The dismissal from an upstate judge comes one day after a New York appeals court affirmed another loss against the former president related to subpoenas issued by the state attorney general.

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — A New York federal judge ruled against former President Donald Trump on Friday in a suit that sought to block the state attorney general’s probe of the Trump Organization and its eponymous leader.

Trump brought the suit against Office of the New York State Attorney General in December 2021 with his personal attorney Alina Habba. The civil complaint in New York’s capital city referred to New York Attorney General Letitia James as “an outspoken political activist and member of the Democratic Party” and alleged that state prosecutors violated their 14th Amendment due process rights by commencing investigations into the Trump family out of bad faith and personal bias.

U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes from the Northern District of New York determined otherwise, however, dismissing the action in a 43-page order this morning.

“First, Plaintiffs have not shown that Defendant had ‘no reasonable expectation of obtaining a favorable outcome’ in this subpoena enforcement proceeding and that the proceeding was therefore brought in bad faith,” the Obama-appointed judge wrote. “Second, while Plaintiffs point to Defendant’s many comments, which they argue illustrate Defendant’s personal animus toward Mr. Trump and evince an intent to retaliate for or stifle Plaintiffs’ free speech, on this record the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not established that the subpoena enforcement proceeding was commenced for the purpose of retaliation."

Attorney General James quickly applauded the ruling on Friday. “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,” she wrote in a statement. “No one in this country can pick and choose how the law applies to them, and Donald Trump is no exception. As we have said all along, we will continue this investigation undeterred.”

Trump's lawyer meanwhile vowed to appeal the ruling. "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," Habba fumed in a statement early Friday afternoon.

When Habba announced Trump’s lawsuit last December, she attacked James for an alleged “callous disregard for the ethical and moral obligations” of her office and said the attorney general “short changed the state by commencing this partisan investigation and has forever tarnished the sanctity of her office.”

“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,” Trump’s attorney said last year.

The dismissal of Trump’s civil suit on Friday comes a day after a New York appeals court affirmed on Thursday that Trump, his eldest daughter Ivanka and eldest son Don Jr. must comply with subpoenas

Trump may still appeal Thursday's ruling to the state's highest judicial authority, the New York Court of Appeals. 

Last month, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron found Trump in contempt and to pay $10,000 per day for failing to comply with the New York attorney general’s records requests in connection with the state investigation.

Trump appealed Judge Engoron's order but lost and ultimately paid $110,000 in accumulated contempt fines.

Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered in James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged Alan Weisselberg and the Trump Organization with tax fraud, alleging he collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation.

Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.

Despite the recent departures of top investigators leading the criminal probe, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg affirmed last month that the Trump Organization case remains ongoing.

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