Trump filed a lawsuit two weeks after James requested that he sit for a Jan. 7 deposition, and alleges that the investigation violates his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”
“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,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the suit.
James has spent more than two years looking at whether Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misled banks and/or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.
Last year, one of James’ investigators interviewed Eric Trump, who serves as an executive at the Trump Organization. Her office went to court to enforce a subpoena on the younger Trump, and a judge forced him to testify after his lawyers abruptly canceled a previously scheduled deposition.
The request for the elder Trump’s testimony, which was first reported on Dec. 9, was the initial step in a process that will now likely lead to issuing a subpoena and going to a judge to order him to cooperate if he were to refuse like his son, Eric, did.
Law enforcement agencies normally don’t issue a civil subpoena for testimony, especially not for a person who is also the subject of a related criminal investigation.
While it is unlikely that Trump’s lawyers would allow him to be deposed, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is conducting a parallel criminal investigation into Trump’s business dealings. And although the civil investigation is separate, Ms. James’ office has been involved in both. Earlier this year, Cyrus Vance Jr., another Manhattan District Attorney, gained access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax records after a multiyear fight that twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vance, who is leaving office at the end of the year, recently convened a new grand jury to hear evidence as he weighs whether to seek more indictments in the investigation, which resulted in tax fraud charges in July against the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges, while the investigations have, at least, discovered that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets. James’ office has also been looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago and a golf course near Los Angeles.
Her office also won a series of court rulings forcing Trump’s company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records.
In light of all these discoveries, James recently suspended her campaign for New York governorship, citing the ongoing investigations in her decision to instead seek reelection as state attorney general.