Politics

Judge dismisses Trump federal lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James over her probe of business

Key Points
  • A judge dismissed a federal lawsuit by former President Donald Trump that sought to bar a civil investigation of his business by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
  • The ruling by U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes came a day after a state appeals court in New York upheld subpoenas issued by James compelling Trump and two of his adult children to appear for questioning under oath as part of her probe.
  • Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, last year sued James in federal court in the Northern District of New York.
  • The claimed the attorney general violated their rights with her investigation into claims the company illegally manipulated the stated valuations of various real estate assets for financial gains.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a press conference announcing a class action lawsuit against big tech companies at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

A judge on Friday dismissed a federal lawsuit by former President Donald Trump that sought to bar a civil investigation of his business by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes came a day after a state appeals court in New York upheld subpoenas issued by James compelling Trump and two of his adult children to appear for questioning under oath as part of her probe.

James, in a Twitter post Friday, called the latest ruling in her favor "a big victory."

"Frivolous lawsuits won't stop us from completing our lawful, legitimate investigation," James tweeted.

Trump and his company, the Trump Organization in December sued James in federal court in the Northern District of New York.

The suit claimed the attorney general violated their rights with her investigation into claims the company illegally manipulated the stated valuations of various real estate assets for financial gains.

Trump and his company claimed that James' "derogatory" comments about him when she ran for office and after her election showed she was retaliating against Trump with her probe, which was commenced "in bad faith and without a legally sufficient basis."

Sannes, in her 43-page ruling Friday, dismissed those arguments, writing "Plaintiffs have not established that Defendant commenced the New York proceeding to otherwise harass them."

Sannes noted that James has said that her investigation was opened as a result of the testimony before Congress by Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in 2019.

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Trumps must testify in civil investigation into the family business

"Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump's financial statements from the years 2011–2013 variously inflated or deflated the value of his assets to suit his interests," Sannes wrote.

The judge also noted that under federal case law embodied in a 1971 ruling in a case known as Younger v. Harris says that "federal courts should generally refrain from enjoining or otherwise interfering in ongoing state proceedings."

Sannes said Trump had failed to offer facts that would warrant an exception to that case law being applied in his lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs could have raised the claims and requested the relief they seek in the federal action" in state court in Manhattan, Sannes wrote.

The parties already have litigated numerous issues related to James' investigation in Manhattan Supreme Court.

James, in a prepared statement, said, "Time and time again, the courts have made clear that Donald J. Trump's baseless legal challenges cannot stop our lawful investigation into his and the Trump Organization's financial dealings."

""No one in this country can pick and choose how the law applies to them, and Donald Trump is no exception. As we have said all along, we will continue this investigation undeterred," James said.

Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, in an emailed statement said, "There is no question that we will be appealing this decision."

"If Ms. James's egregious conduct and harassing investigation does not meet the bad faith exception to the Younger abstention doctrine, then I cannot imagine a scenario that would," Habba wrote, referring to the element of Sannes' decision related to the case law from Younger v. Harris.