Before New York Attorney General Letitia James took her oath of office in January 2019, she made it clear she was gunning for President Donald Trump and his business dealings.
But what's she has painted as a pursuit of justice, Trump has assailed as part of a clear "Get Trump" agenda and political ax to grind against him and other conservative interests.
James has launched several investigations into the president since becoming New York’s top attorney. Calling him an "illegitimate president," she has continued and stepped up probes of Trump’s business transactions, as well as other political investigations, dating back years before she arrived on the scene.
Political investigations have also trickled down to the NYC district attorney’s office, which has launched its own deep dives into the president’s finances and businesses.
The most recent political move James has made came Thursday, when she filed a lawsuit against the National Rife Association (NRA). James is calling for the preeminent gun advocacy organization to shut down over allegations that high-ranking executives misspent millions of dollars in NRA money on such things as vacations and no-show contracts for associates.
The suit was filed in Manhattan after an 18-month investigation into the NRA and leader Wayne LaPierre.
The suit points out that the organization went from having a nearly $28 million surplus in 2015 to a $36 million deficit in 2018. James calls out the NRA for violating state and federals laws along with the group’s own bylaws and employee handbook.
That James would take on the NRA in this fashion may not be a surprise to political observers. It certainly did not surprise Trump. Indeed, when James' office began looking into the NRA earlier in her tenure, Trump tweeted that said the group was “under siege” by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the AG, whom he accused of “illegally using the state’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy” the conservative gun rights juggernaut.
Over many months, she has made a target of interests on the political right, including the Trump administration itself. Her office has challenged the White House on hot-button topics ranging from immigration to health care.
She advocated to close the New York state “double jeopardy” loophole, so the state’s criminal laws would apply to anyone who receives a presidential pardon. She has also vowed to use the law to investigate Trump and his family and their many business and philanthropic ventures.
The New York attorney general’s office has also gone after Trump’s charitable foundation, claiming the president used the charity’s money for such things as his 2016 campaign for president. James’s colleagues at the NYC District Attorney’s office have also filed suit against the president looking for his tax returns and for financial records that may reveal possible insurance fraud and bank fraud.
Tweeting about James taking office, Trump called out what he characterized as a clear political vendetta:
“....In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people - a total double standard of ‘justice.’”
In June 2018, the New York AG filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The foundation’s directors, which included Trump and his adult children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, were accused of ignoring their oversight duties under the state’s charity laws. The suit claimed that Trump used foundation money for his own personal, business and political interests including during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The New York Supreme County ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages for using money from his charity during his presidential campaign in November 2019.
The foundation was also ordered to shut down and money was distributed to court-approved charities that had no ties to the Trumps.
During the course of the inquiry, Trump's lawyers made a case for James' political bias.
"Newly elected New York Attorney General Letitia James ran on an anti-Trump campaign where she expressed grave antipathy and animus toward Mr. Trump," attorneys for the foundation, as well as President Donald Trump and his three eldest children, wrote in a filing.
"Attorney General James has referred to President Trump as an 'illegitimate President,'" the filing states, "and has vowed to 'use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well.'"
In March 2019, James issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank as part of an inquiry into Trump Organization projects.
James said she is looking for records involving Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football team in 2014 and several other business transactions involving the Trump Organization.
Investigators asked Deutsche Bank to hand over records including loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington, Trump National Doral in South Florida and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.
Investors Banked was asked for financial records related to Trump Park Avenue.
James began requesting the financial information after Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen alleged in congressional testimony that the president had inflated the worth of his assets in financial statements he'd provided to banks to obtain loans.
In 2013, then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump University claiming the for-profit real estate training program scammed its students out of money.
"More than 5,000 people across the country who paid Donald Trump $40 million to teach them his hard sell tactics got a hard lesson in bait-and-switch," Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the suit. "Mr. Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn't afford for lessons they never got. No one, no matter how rich or popular they are, has a right to scam hard working New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable."
In 2016, Trump University agreed to pay a $25 million settlement.
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