New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a sweeping lawsuit Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump Organization in connection with her yearslong civil investigation into the company’s business practices.
In its 220-page suit, James’ office details efforts by the former president to inflate his personal net worth to attract favorable loan agreements. For Trump’s alleged wrongdoing, James seeks to bar the Trump family from being in the office of any New York-based company for five years. Additionally, James seeks to bar them from receiving loans from any New York registered financial institution for five years.
James’ office seeks approximately $250 million in penalties. The suit alleges more than 200 instances of fraud over 10 years.
“For too long, powerful, wealthy people in this country have operated as if the rules do not apply to them,” James said in a statement. “Donald Trump stands out as among the most egregious examples of this misconduct. With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system.”
Alina Habba, a lawyer representing Trump in this case, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda. It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place.”
James alleges years of large-scale fraud, saying the Trump Organization inflated the values of its properties in seeking bank loans or deflated them to pay less taxes. Her office has said in court filings that it “uncovered substantial evidence establishing numerous misrepresentations” in the company’s financial statements to banks, insurers and the IRS.
James’ announcement follows months of efforts by the former president and his three eldest children — Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump — to avoid testifying and turning over business documents. Trump sued the New York attorney general in federal court in December, seeking a halt to her civil probe and casting the investigation as politically motivated. But U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that while Trump and his company pointed to several comments that they argue show James’ “personal animus toward Mr. Trump and evince an intent to retaliate for or stifle plaintiffs’ free speech,” they did not show her effort to enforce subpoenas against the company “was commenced for the purpose of retaliation.”
Trump also sought to impede the probe in New York, but in February, a state judge ordered the former president, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump to sit for depositions and produce the documents subpoenaed by James.
The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing in court filings and argued that it has exceeded expectations in complying with document requests. James’ office pushed back on that assertion and sought to hold Trump in civil contempt. Her office alleged in court filings in April that Trump failed to comply with state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s order to turn over subpoenaed documents and sought to fine him $10,000 a day until he provided the records, which the judge granted weeks later.
During an hourslong deposition at James’ office last month, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, answering only a question about his name, his attorney, Ron Fischetti, said. Fischetti said Trump was asked about the valuations of various items and golf clubs, signing documents, mortgages, loans and the size of his apartment. A source with knowledge of the deposition said Trump took the Fifth more than 440 times.
The former president’s deposition took place weeks after Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump testified in the civil probe in July. NBC News reported that neither of Trump’s two eldest children invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection. Other Trump Organization executives have also been questioned, including Eric Trump.
The Trump Organization also faces a criminal prosecution over its business dealings, led by the Manhattan district attorney. The company’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in that case, which is set to go to trial next month.
Trump also faces a federal investigation over his storage of sensitive documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, in Florida. Trump has contended that he declassified the various top secret and other highly sensitive documents found there.