Evidence in Trump case ‘significant’

NEW YORK — As a federal judge weighs Donald Trump’s lawsuit to drop a civil investigation into his business practices, a lawyer for the New York Attorney General’s Office said Friday evidence found during the three-year investigation could support legal action against the former president, his company or both.

“Clearly, a significant body of evidence has been gathered that could support the filing of enforcement proceedings,” said Andrew Amer, a special litigation counsel in the office of Attorney General Letitia James. He added during the hearing in Trump’s lawsuit against James that a final decision on filing such a lawsuit has not yet been made.

Amer said the office is “near the end” of the civil investigation, which James said has uncovered evidence Trump’s company had been misstating the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses in financial statements for more than a decade.

The ex-president has denied wrongdoing. His lawyers allege James is using their investigation to gain access to information that could then be used in the parallel criminal investigation against him.

Trump’s attorney, who is trying to drop the civil investigation, argued at Friday’s hearing that James’ investigation was a politically motivated fishing expedition and that it violated Trump’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law by putting him in the sea takes sight.

James, a Democrat, has moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

US District Judge Brenda Sannes said she will review both applications and make a written decision. She did not give a timetable for a decision.

Sannes listened to Amers and Trump’s attorney Alina Habba argue for about an hour via video. She asked poignant questions about recent litigation over subpoenas for Trump testimony and evidence and the role of federal courts in intervening in a state matter.

Trump sued James in federal court in upstate New York in December after her office issued subpoenas ordering him and his two eldest children — Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. — to answer questions under oath. A state appeals court heard arguments Wednesday as the Trumps sought to overturn a lower court judge’s decision to enforce the subpoenas.

Habba argued at Friday’s hearing that James was investigating Trump to fulfill promises she made during her 2018 campaign as attorney general and used the office to harass him and his firm with countless subpoenas and requests for evidence.

“We have produced millions and millions of pages” of evidence, Habba told Sannes. “We keep getting summonses. They keep looking for things.”

Amer countered that the investigation had a sound legal basis, noting that the state judge who oversees litigation over summonses from the attorney general’s office had determined that there was “a reasonable basis for his investigation to proceed.”

Amer said the investigation, now “nearly complete,” uncovered ample evidence that could support civil enforcement action.

All of this, Amer said, “really shuts down any argument” by Trump’s attorneys that the attorney general’s office acted in bad faith.

James’ office and Trump’s attorneys have reached several agreements to extend the deadline for a possible decision, writing in a court filing that it is “in their mutual benefit and interest.” An agreement released in the state court filing set an April 30 deadline, but Habba said Trump’s attorneys recently agreed to a further extension.

The mid-level appeals court, which heard arguments in Trump’s testimony on Wednesday, is unlikely to begin its appeal of a recent contempt of court finding until the fall.

FILE – New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a rally in support of caregivers December 14, 2021 in New York “Nearing the end” of his three-year investigation into former President Donald Trump and his business practices. (AP Photo/Seth Little, file)

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