Trump fumes about Cuomo, New York A.G. over state investigations

"Cuomo uses his Attorney General as a bludgeoning tool for his own purposes," Trump tweeted. "They sue on everything, always in search of a crime."
Image: President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House on June 30, 2019.
President Donald Trump on Monday accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York of using "his attorney general as a bludgeoning tool for his own purposes." Andrew Harnik / AP

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump on Monday accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of using the state's attorney general, Letitia James to target his businesses for political purposes, claiming in an afternoon tweet storm that the state sues "for everything" and is "always in search of a crime."

"It is very hard and expensive to live in New York," Trump began. "Governor Andrew Cuomo uses his Attorney General as a bludgeoning tool for his own purposes. They sue on everything, always in search of a crime. I even got sued on a Foundation which took Zero rent & expenses & gave away more money than it had."

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Cuomo said Monday that he had not yet seen Trump's tweets, but added "nothing that man can say can surprise me."

"He says the most absurd things," Cuomo said, adding that Trump's "strength is not fact or truth."

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Hillary Clinton also fired back, defending the Clinton Foundation and noting that the New York Attorney General had found that the president's own foundation engaged in a "shocking pattern of illegality."

The governor said the only person who has increased taxes on the state is the president, through his tax bill's elimination of state and local tax — known as SALT — deductions for higher-taxed states.

"He doesn’t understand how government works," Cuomo said, adding that "maybe his attorney general is a tool" and noting that the New York attorney general is elected.

"His suggestion that it’s my attorney general is incorrect," he said.

Of the state investigation, Cuomo said of Trump, "If he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to worry about."

James tweeted soon after on Monday afternoon, saying that as "the elected AG of NY, I have a sworn duty to protect & uphold state law."

"My office will follow the facts of any case, wherever they lead," she continued. "Make no mistake: No one is above the law, not even the President. P.S. My name is Letitia James. (You can call me Tish.)"

Late last year Trump's charitable foundation agreed to dissolve and give away its assets to other nonprofit organizations as a result of the New York attorney general probe, which began under Eric Schneiderman. At the time, Schneiderman's successor as attorney general, Barbara Underwood, said the nonprofit had exhibited a "shocking pattern" of illegality.

That deal did not stop the civil lawsuit Underwood filed against the foundation last year from proceeding. The New York attorney general's office continued to seek nearly $3 million in restitution and additional fines as part of the suit, as well as a ban on Trump's leading a New York nonprofit for the next decade and placing one-year bans on the charity's other board members, which include the president's adult children.

Trump has repeatedly clashed with Schneiderman through the years and later publicly criticized Underwood and James, claiming their investigations were politically motivated. The office has led significant investigations into not only his charity, but also into Trump University, the president's defunct real estate education venture.

Shortly after her election in November, James, a Democrat, vowed to "use every area of the law" to probe Trump, his family and associates, and his business. The office of attorney general has sweeping investigatory and prosecutorial powers to do just that.

Earlier this year, James subpoenaed Trump's banks, seeking information about the Trump Organization and the president's finances. Trump dismissed those efforts as "presidential harassment" and tweeted that James "openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda."

James opened that probe, a civil inquiry, after Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, testified to Congress in February that Trump inflated the worth of his assets in financial statements that he provided to banks to secure loans.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that people and businesses are leaving New York state in record numbers. It’s true that people are leaving New York state in record numbers — according to Census data — but it’s hard to gauge departing businesses. There’s some anecdotal evidence that some businesses might be leaving the Big Apple, but there is also evidence that more than 10,000 businesses open and close each year in the state.

Jane C. Timm contributed.