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Trump sues to block fraud investigation ramping up in New York

The lawsuit is replete with cries of “witch hunt,” a term Trump used frequently to describe dissent during his presidency. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — Former President Donald Trump sued New York’s attorney general on Monday to stop an investigation into his business dealings, days after her office announced that it plans to subpoena Trump to testify

Filed in the Northern District of New York, the complaint accuses Letitia James of wielding her office’s power to serve her own political interests, namely a “bitter crusade” against the former president, his family and his business. 

Trump said his rights are being violated under federal, state and common law. 

“Even worse, rather than diligently prosecuting actual crimes in the state of New York — which are steadily on the rise — James has instead allocated precious taxpayer resources towards a frivolous witch hunt,” the 30-page complaint states.  

"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."

James is looking into whether the Trump Organization, and its namesake, inflated the value of properties in reports to banks to get better loan terms and millions of dollars in tax benefits. She intends to seek testimony from Trump himself on January 7. 

The attorney general, whose investigation into former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo eventually led to his resignation, has not been shy about her mission to take on Trump

The suit attempts to bolster its arguments with examples that it says show bias from the start of Trump’s presidency. James joined protests against the Trump administration shortly after the January 2017 inauguration, and used the hashtag #Resist on Twitter. 

In August 2018, James foreshadowed her investigatory intentions, saying Trump  “should be scared” of her upcoming term, and that she was “closing in on” him with the help of the former FBI director and Trump’s longtime attorney.

“Trump should be worried about three people: 1. Robert Mueller 2. Michael Cohen 3. Tish James,” the attorney general said at the time. 

“I’ve sued the Trump administration 76 times. But who’s counting?” James said in October, announcing a run for governor that would be short-lived; she dropped out of the race on December 9 and is instead running for reelection.

Last week, James explained the decision in an appearance on "The View."

"I've got unfinished business," she said, citing her investigations into the Trump administration, the National Rifle Association, Cuomo's alleged underreporting of nursing home deaths from Covid-19, and soaring child poverty in Rochester, New York. 

Trump’s filing calls the probe against him entirely meritless. 

​​“It is clear that Defendant lacked any basis to investigate Trump, but she did so anyway, and in doing so, she abandoned all pretenses of acting with impartiality and in accordance with prosecutorial standards,” the lawsuit says, claiming violations of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments, as well abuse of process. 

In some cases, the Trump Organizations reported property values changed drastically from one year to the next, according to James’ office. Records show that an office building on Wall Street was listed as a $527 million asset; months later, it was reported to be worth $16.7 million, or one-thirtieth of the value claimed the year before. 

Separately, though working in tandem with the attorney general’s office, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s dealings. The organization and top executive Allen Weisselberg were named in the first criminal indictment, unsealed in July. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to hiding $1.7 million of indirect compensation to evade thousands of dollars in federal, state and local taxes. 

Trump previously referred to James’ investigation as a “witch hunt,” and called it political. His attorney Alina Habba echoed that sentiment on Monday. 

“Letitia James targets President Trump with a callous disregard for the ethical and moral obligations she swore to abide by when she became Attorney General,” Habba said in a statement. 

“She has 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.”

James noted Monday that this isn't the first time Trump has tried to put off the civil fraud investigation. Trump's attorneys had indicated only days earlier that they intend to fight the bid for him to testify. 

“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," she said in a statement. "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.”

This story is developing...

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