Trump sues New York attorney general in bid to halt inquiry into business affairs

Donald Trump claims the attorney general has violated his rights under the US constitution by pursuing a politically motivated investigation. File photograph: Cooper Neill/The New York Times

Former US president Donald Trump has sued the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, seeking to halt her long-running investigation of his business practices, the New York Times first reported on Monday.

Mr Trump’s suit, filed in federal court in Syracuse, New York, alleges that Ms James, a Democrat, “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”.

Ms James is investigating whether the Trump Organization manipulated valuations of its real estate properties. She recently said she would seek to question the former president under oath in January. The investigation could only result in civil charges.

Mr Trump and the Trump Organization, which is also a plaintiff in the case filed against Ms James, claim the attorney general has violated their rights under the US constitution by pursuing a politically motivated investigation.

Mr Trump and the company pointed to public statements James made against the former president before she was elected to her position. They are seeking a court order barring the investigation from going forward.

“By filing this lawsuit, 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,” Mr Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said in a statement. Ms James did not immediately comment.

Manhattan criminal investigation

Mr Trump’s business and tax affairs are also being investigated in New York by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance. In progress for more than three years, it is a criminal investigation. Ms James joined it in May.

The Manhattan case includes a focus on whether the Trump Organization overstated the value of some real estate assets to obtain loans and tax benefits.

In one such instance, as Mr Trump ran for president in 2016, the Guardian reported on differing valuations of a golf club outside New York City. Mr Trump did not comment.

The Washington Post and other outlets have reported similar alleged practices at other Trump properties.

In July, the longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in what a prosecutor in Vance’s office called a “sweeping and audacious” 15-year tax fraud.

Last month, Mr Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a three-year sentence for offences including campaign finance violations relating to a payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims an affair with Trump, said Manhattan prosecutors could “indict Donald Trump tomorrow if they really wanted and be successful”.

Asked if he was “confident you did help Donald Trump commit crimes”, Cohen told NBC: “I can assure you that Donald Trump is guilty of his own crimes. Was I involved in much of the inflation and deflation of his assets? The answer to that is yes.” – Guardian