Judge Stops Trump Attempt To Maneuver Out Of Civil Lawsuit

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A New York federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed late last year by former President Donald Trump in hopes of stopping the civil investigation New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is conducting into his business.

U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes, who handled the matter, “said she based her decision on case law that, in most cases, bars federal judges from interfering in state-level investigations,” per the Associated Press. It’s another high-profile win for James after a New York appeals court ruled this week that Trump and two of his adult children — Ivanka and Don Jr. — must testify as part of her probe into the Trump company. That ruling upheld a similar conclusion from New York Judge Arthur Engoron. After the new ruling against Trump’s lawsuit over James’s probe, the attorney general spoke out again. “In a big victory, a federal court has dismissed Donald Trump’s baseless lawsuit to stop my office’s investigation into his and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” James said. “Frivolous lawsuits won’t stop us from completing our lawful, legitimate investigation.”

Trump’s lawsuit originally characterized James’s investigation as politically motivated and supposedly in violation of his Constitutional rights. At a recent hearing related to the lawsuit, a lawyer with James’s office indicated the Trump probe “is winding down and that evidence from it could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both,” per the Associated Press. Because James’s probe is civil and not criminal in nature, it’s not set up to lead to criminal charges in the event of findings of misconduct — but it may lead to litigation that could end with presumably hefty financial penalties for the Trump company if James proves whatever claims she may raise. James’s civil inquiry hinges on the Trump Organization’s apparent repeated misstatements of valuations of its assets — deceptive valuations that were set to help the company obtain financial benefits like tax breaks. James has already singled out (among other examples) apparently deceptively valued conservation easements at Trump properties in California and New York.

Separately, Trump’s side originally argued against James’s push for testimony on the basis of the potential for details gleaned during the process to be used in the criminal investigation that culminated in part with tax evasion-related charges against the Trump company and executive Allen Weisselberg. Despite the criminal probe, the New York appeals panel handling Trump’s complaints concluded that the “existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” as they put it. And Trump’s recent losses in relation to James’s investigation don’t end here — he also recently paid a $110,000 fine incurred in tandem with a contempt finding over his failure to comply to a sufficient extent with a push from James for docs in relation to her probe. Among other issues, Engoron originally said an earlier personal affidavit from Trump was “completely devoid of any useful detail” regarding various document-related issues. More details were later provided.

Featured image: Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons license