New York's attorney general Letitia James has filed a lawsuit in state court in New York against Donald Trump and his company, in the culmination of the Democrat’s three-year civil investigation into the former US president's business.
James announced the lawsuit at a much-awaited press conference on Wednesday, during which she accused Trump of being involved in business fraud linked to some of his most prized assets, including properties in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington, DC. Specifically, she said Trump has systematically misstated the value of his properties, intentionally lying to lenders and insurers for more than a decade.
In the 220-page lawsuit, the attorney general brought plenty of examples of the alleged fraud committed by the former president and his family business.
The goal of the lawsuit, James explained, is to strike at the core of that same sense of opulence and entrepreneurship that the former US president has built his image and reputation on.
“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.
More practically, the lawsuit is trying to get Trump and his three eldest children from ever running a business in the state of New York again. Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, the former US president's eldest children, are in fact also defendants in the lawsuit, as well as two long-time company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
If successful, the lawsuit will remove the Trumps from businesses engaged in the alleged fraud and introduce 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.
The current trustees of Trump’s revocable trust, which controls his business interests, would also be replaced with independent trustees, Trump and his organization would be barred from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions for five years and from obtaining loans from banks in New York for five years, and the former president and his three eldest children would be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
Weisselberg and McConney, on the other hand, would be permanently barred from serving in the financial control function of any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
The lawsuit could also be potentially escalated to the federal level.
In her speech on Wednesday, James concluded that Trump and his family business violated several state criminal laws and “plausibly” broke federal criminal laws as well. But her office lacks authority to file criminal charges in this case and has referred the findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
It's unclear whether the US attorney would investigate.