Former President Donald Trump filed suit against New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday, seeking a court order to halt her long-running civil tax fraud investigation into his company’s business practices.
“In the words of Letitia James, ‘no one is above the law’ — not even the attorney general of the state of New York,” Trump and the Trump organization say in the federal lawsuit, which accuses James of having “exploited” her powers.
“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 lawsuit says.
James responded to the suit with a statement accusing the former president and his company of repeatedly seeking to delay her investigation.
“To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions,” she said. “Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump.”
Trump responded with a statement of his own, saying, “This is not about delay, this is about our Constitution! You are nothing but a corrupt official doing the dirty work of your party. You should not be in office.”
The unusual suit, first reported by The New York Times, seeks a court order declaring that Trump’s rights have been violated and halting James’ civil investigation as well as her involvement with the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe of his company. It maintains that Trump is the victim of “viewpoint discrimination,” and that James should be blocked from “being involved in any manner in any civil or criminal actions against” Trump and his company.
Trump lawyer Alina Habba said, “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.”
The action comes on the heels of James’ request earlier this month to interview Trump for the investigation. Another lawyer for Trump, Ronald Fischetti, dismissed the move at the time as “purely political.”
“They have been investigating this for three years. We are not concerned about it because he has done nothing wrong,” Fischetti said, referring to Trump.
James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization committed fraud in reporting the value of certain properties to banks and tax authorities, and has already questioned other top execs, including Trump’s son Eric Trump. James’ office is weighing whether to file a civil suit against the company.
James is also assisting the criminal investigation headed by the Manhattan D.A. into alleged tax fraud schemes at Trump’s company. The D.A.’s office charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud earlier this year. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the probes. The former president has called James “corrupt” and accused her of engaging in a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
When James, a Democrat, ran for office in 2018, she campaigned in part on a pledge to hold Trump and his administration accountable. Her office’s probe into Trump’s charitable foundation led to its dissolution.
James has denied that the Trump Organization investigation is politically motivated and has said it stemmed from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress in 2019 about Trump’s business practices.
Cohen testified that “Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes” and “deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”
Cohen was sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison for what a Manhattan federal court judge called a “veritable smorgasbord” of criminal conduct, including facilitating secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump and lying to Congress about the president’s business dealings with Russia.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.