Letitia “Tish” James is suing former President Donald Trump, some of his children, his Trump Organization company and others associated with the business, the New York State attorney general announced Wednesday.
The $250 million lawsuit is based on Trump’s alleged “intentional and deliberate fraud,” James said during a press conference announcing the lawsuit, as “part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family and his company” over the course of 10 years from 2011 to 2021.
Actions have consequences. We're seeking to:
➡️Make Trump pay $250 million.
➡️Ban the Trumps from running NY businesses for good.
➡️Ban Trump and Trump Org from buying commercial real estate in NY for 5 yrs.
➡️We're making a criminal referral to the U.S. Dept of Justice.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) September 21, 2022
“Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself … with the help of other defendants,” who include Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, James said.
“Trump and the organization repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets” for organizations and real estate properties in an effort to convince banks to lend him money as well as to pay lower taxes, James said.
“Trump, his children and the Trump organization created and used more than 200 false and misleading asset evaluations over a 10-year period,“ James said.
James claims that as a result, Trump violated multiple state and federal laws. She said she would refer evidence of bank fraud to the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, something that seemingly increases the likelihood of criminal charges.
Some of Trump’s alleged misconduct as described in the lawsuit include falsifying business records, insurance fraud and engaging in a conspiracy to commit state law violations.
Others named in the lawsuit include former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, Jeffrey Mcconney, an executive with the Trump Organization, The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and The Trump Organization, Inc.
The lawsuit aims to prevent the Trumps from running any company in the state of New York. In addition, James is seeking to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any real estate commercial deals or applying for loans for five years.
“No one is above the law,” James repeated throughout the press conference.
Among the “common tactics” James claimed Trump used were falsely representing he had cash on hand that he actually did not have.
James pointed to Trump’s property at 40 Wall Street in New York City, which she claims he inflated the value of by more than double to the tune of $520 million. She also claimed Trump intentionally misrepresented the square footage of his triplex penthouse in order to fraudulently inflate its value to a price point of $327 million, for which “no apartment in New York City has ever sold.”
Doing so helped Trump illegally save millions of dollars in tax payments, James said.
Those examples “barely scratch the surface of the misconduct” that James said she and her team uncovered, calling them “astounding.”
Speculation ran rampant on social media after it was announced that James would be making a “major announcement” on Wednesday.
The New York Times reported last week that there was a possibility she may sue Trump after James’ office rejected offers to settle her investigation into the former president’s company, the Trump Organization.
The Times explained the consequences for Trump if James sued him:
A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.” If the case goes to trial and Mr. Trump loses, a judge could impose financial penalties and restrict the former president’s business operations in New York — all potentially in the midst of a 2024 presidential campaign that he is expected to join.
Prior to James and her office turning down the settlement, a judge rejected Trump’s claims that the investigation resulted from “political animus.” Notably, the former president and his company have never objected to the underlying legal basis for James’ investigation.
James, who is up for re-election in November, has been persistent in her mission to hold businesses operating within the state of New York accountable for their actions.
The investigation into the Trump Organization is separate from the criminal investigation previously led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. It is also different from the election probe into the former president’s alleged interference with the administration of Georgia’s elections in 2020.
In December of last year, Trump sued James for allegedly trying to “harass, intimidate and retaliate against” him.
The lawsuit came less than two weeks after James suspended her short-lived gubernatorial campaign in order to seek re-election as attorney general because, as she said at the time, “There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job.”
The announcement that James was suspending her campaign came on the same day when the Washington Post first reported that her office intended to depose the twice-impeached former president in an effort to find out whether the practice of tax fraud “permeated the Trump Organization.”
The answer to that question is likely a resounding “yes,” considering Trump’s lawsuit.
“The Trump Organization has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings,” James said in a brief statement at the time. “To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions.”
James has been laser-focused on the ongoing civil and criminal investigations in New York since her office launched the probe in 2019. That’s when she issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank to obtain records related to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills.
James was interested in accessing a wide range of documents that include loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Congressional testimony from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen prompted the investigation.
The investigation into Trump and the Trump organization came just three months after James was sworn in as New York’s first Black woman attorney general.
“We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” James said at the time.
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