New York's attorney general sued former President Donald Trump and his company on Wednesday, alleging business fraud involving some of their most prized assets, including properties in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization. Trump's three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with two longtime company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
The lawsuit seeks to strike at the core of what made Trump famous, taking a blacklight to the image of wealth and opulence he's embraced throughout his career — first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice," and later as president.
James, a Democrat, announced details of the lawsuit at a news conference on Wednesday. The case showed up on a court docket Wednesday morning.
"Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, and cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us," James said at the news conference.
The goal, the attorney general's office has said, was to burnish Trump's billionaire image and the value of his properties when doing so gave him an advantage, while playing down the value of assets at other times for tax purposes.
James is seeking to remove the Trumps from businesses engaged in the alleged fraud and wants an independent monitor appointed for no less than five years to oversee the Trump Organization's compliance, financial reporting, valuations and disclosures to lenders, insurers and tax authorities.
She is seeking to replace the current trustees of Trump's revocable trust, which controls his business interests, with independent trustee, to bar Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions for five years, from obtaining loans from banks in New York for five years and permanently bar Trump and his three eldest children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
She also seeks to permanently bar Weisselberg and McConney from serving in the financial control function of any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
James said her investigation uncovered potential criminal violations, including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud. She said her office is referring those findings to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.”
“It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place," Habba said. "We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.