Former President Donald Trump sued 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 with a statement accusing Trump 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."
James asked to interview Trump for the investigation this month. 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.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in a statement that James is "misleading the public."
"She defrauded New Yorkers by basing her entire candidacy on a promise to get Trump at all costs without having seen a shred of evidence and in violation of every conceivable ethical rule," the spokesperson, Kimberly Benza, said. "Three years later she is now faced with the stark reality that she has no case. So, in response to Trump suing her and filing multiple ethical complaints, and on the heels of her failed governor's race, she has no choice but to mislead the public yet again by misrepresenting the facts and ignoring her own inflammatory comments. Her allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended."
James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization committed fraud in reporting the value of certain properties to banks and tax authorities, and other top executives have already been questioned, including Trump's son Eric Trump. James' office is weighing whether to file a civil suit against the company.
James is also assisting the Manhattan district attorney's criminal investigation into allegations of tax fraud schemes at Trump's company. The district attorney's office charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud this year. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the investigations. He 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 investigation into Trump's charitable foundation led to its dissolution.
James has denied that the Trump Organization investigation is politically motivated, and he 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 federal judge in Manhattan called a "veritable smorgasbord" of criminal conduct, including facilitating secret payments to women who claimed they had had affairs with Trump and lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings with Russia.