Former US president Donald Trump has sued New York Attorney-General Letitia James, resorting to a familiar but seldom successful strategy as he seeks to end a years-long civil investigation into his business practices that he alleges is purely political.
In the lawsuit, filed on Monday (US time) in federal court two weeks after Ms James requested that Mr Trump sit for a January 7 deposition, Mr Trump contends the probe into matters including his company’s valuation of assets has violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates”.
The lawsuit describes Ms James, a Democrat, as having “personal disdain for Trump” and points to numerous statements she’s made targeting him in recent years. They include her support of “die-in” protests against him, her boast that her office sued his administration 76 times and tweets during her 2018 campaign that she had her “eyes on Trump Tower” and that Mr Trump was “running out of time”.
“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,” the former president’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Mr Trump and his company, the Trump Organisation.
In a statement, Ms James said: “The Trump Organisation 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.”
“To be clear, neither Mr Trump nor the Trump Organisation 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.”
Ms James had announced a run for New York governor in late October. Earlier this month, she suspended that campaign and cited ongoing investigations in her decision to instead seek re-election as state attorney general.
News of the lawsuit, filed in upstate New York, was first reported by The New York Times.
The case is assigned to Judge Brenda Sannes in Syracuse. She was appointed in 2014 by Mr Trump’s predecessor president Barack Obama, a Democrat, but preliminary proceedings will be handled by a magistrate judge in Albany, which isn’t unusual for federal court.
Mr Trump, a Republican, seeks a permanent injunction barring Ms James from investigating him and preventing her from being involved in any “civil or criminal” investigations against him and his company.
That includes a parallel criminal probe she’s a part of that’s being led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Mr Trump also wants a judge to declare that Ms James violated his free speech and due process rights.
Mr Trump has lost multiple lawsuits aimed at foiling investigators, including a multiyear US Supreme Court fight that ended in February with Mr Vance obtaining his tax records.
Ms James has spent more than two years investigating whether the Trump Organisation misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets – inflating them to gain favourable loan terms or minimising them to reap tax savings.