The case accuses James of violating the civil rights of Trump and the Trump Organization. The suit seeks injunctions requiring the attorney general “to immediately cease or, at a minimum, appropriately limit all ongoing investigations” and prohibiting her from taking part in any civil or criminal action against Trump or his business complex.
Trump’s suit argues that James’ partisan rhetoric against Trump is so extreme that she’s violated her oath of office.
The complaint notes that in 2017, while serving as New York City Public Advocate, James said: “I’ve been leading the resistance against Donald Trump in NYC and will only continue to do so in every way possible.” In addition, the suit points out that in late 2018 while James was preparing to take office as attorney general, she vowed in an interview to aggressively investigate Trump.
“We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” James told NBC News. “We want to investigate anyone in his orbit who has, in fact, violated the law.”
The former president echoed that line of attack in a statement released Monday by his political action committee, calling James “a corrupt official doing the dirty work of your party.” The New York attorney general’s investigtion, Trump said, “is just a continuation of the political Witch Hunt that has gone on against me by the Radical Left Democrats for years.”
The suit was assigned to Syracuse-based U.S. District Court Judge Brenda Sannes, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. The case likely faces an uphill battle in court because federal judges very rarely order a state prosecutor to halt an investigation or refrain from bringing charges in a particular case.
James issued a statement Monday decrying the suit as a stalling tactic.
“The Trump Organization has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings and now Donald Trump and his namesake company have filed a lawsuit as an attempted collateral attack on that investigation,” James said. “To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions. Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump.”
James announced in October that she was running for New York governor after commissioning a report on alleged sexual harassment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which led to his resignation. However, she dropped out of the governor’s race earlier this month and announced she’d instead seek re-election as attorney general.
The suit from Trump appears to be a counterpunch to efforts by James’ office to force Trump to testify in a civil fraud investigation. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that James has demanded that Trump appear and give testimony in New York on Jan. 7.
The Trump Organization responded to those reports with a statement calling that effort “a political witch hunt” and “a travesty.”
The precise contours of James’ fraud investigation are unknown, but her office has been cooperating with Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into alleged business, insurance, bank and tax fraud.
Vance’s probe already resulted in criminal tax fraud charges last July against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. The firm and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty.
However, Vance is leaving office at the end of the year and many observers expect him to make a decision before exiting on whether to seek criminal charges against the former president. During a recent interview with the Associated Press, Vance described the probe as “active and ongoing.”