N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James vs. Donald Trump: Here’s why her lawsuit will stick

OPINION: What’s so smart about this civil lawsuit is that much of the evidence is explicitly featured in financial documents that have been signed by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric, and it’s indisputable.

N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference at the office of the Attorney General on September 21, 2022 in New York, New York. NY AG James announced that her office is suing former President Donald J. Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump accusing the family of fraudulent statements of financial conditions to obtain millions in economic benefits.(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

New York Attorney General Letitia James gave a master class on delivering a read with all of the receipts during her press conference announcing the civil lawsuit her office filed against Donald Trump and the Trump family. Attorney General James’ delivery was reminiscent of Monique Samuels pulling out her binder of receipts during a “Real Housewives” reunion, and James didn’t miss a beat as she went property by property numerating Trump’s lies and fraud.

“The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr. Trump and the Trump organization is astounding,” Attorney General James stated as she emphasized the sheer magnitude of Trump’s alleged financial schemes. 

James’ three-year investigation led to the suit that accuses Trump of committing fraud when he repeatedly lied in financial documents and inflated the value of his properties in Trump Tower, Trump Park Avenue, 40 Wall Street, the infamous Mar-a-Lago and many other properties across the country, as well as abroad. 

“The examples I have laid out just barely scratch the surface of the misconduct we have uncovered. The complaint…is more than 280 pages long. It includes examples from 23 assets that were grossly and fraudulently inflated, and those inflated values were used on Mr. Trump’s statements almost every year,” James stated. “This conduct cannot be brushed aside and dismissed as some sort of good faith mistake. The statements of financial condition were greatly exaggerated, grossly inflated, objectively false, and therefore fraudulent and illegal.”

Translation: We know that Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump organization have been lying about their money and assets for at least a decade, and now we’re coming for accountability. According to the New York attorney general’s office, that accountability would ideally come in the form of banning the Trump family from running any corporations in New York, banning Trump from buying real estate in New York for five years, and a big hit to Trump’s wallet in the form of a $250 million fine to repay the money they illegally obtained.

In addition to her civil lawsuit, James’ office sent a criminal referral to federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the I.R.S. for potential violations of federal criminal law, including bank fraud and issuing false statements to financial institutions (it should be noted that criminal cases have a much higher burden of proof than civil cases.) 

Tish James is not playing any games.

Yet again, we have a no-nonsense Black woman prosecutor doing what needs to be done to hold this man and his family accountable for their crimes, none of which were a secret. During the press conference, James was explicitly clear that her investigation began as a result of Michael Cohen’s 2019 congressional testimony about Trump’s fraudulent behavior as he was being questioned by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And that’s partly why this civil lawsuit is going to stick—the evidence is just that strong.  

What’s so smart about this civil lawsuit is that much of the evidence is explicitly featured in financial documents that have been signed by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric, and it’s simply indisputable. The attorney general’s office has been clear that its investigation uncovered more than 200 false and misleading asset valuations that were created and used by Trump, his children and the Trump organization. The signatures on these documents are just as solid as having their voices recorded on tape committing crimes, and Trump and his team know it. 

They know that they’re backed into a corner in this lawsuit, and that’s precisely why Trump and his team approached the attorney general’s office about a settlement before the lawsuit was filed and announced. Now that James is moving forward with this civil suit, Trump is resorting to his favorite pastime—spewing lies about his adversaries. He deigned to even call James racist, because, of course. 

After posting more than 36 posts on bootleg Twitter, also known as Truth Social, maybe it’s starting to sink in for Trump that this civil lawsuit isn’t just going to go away and that he stands to lose his prized possession—the appearance of being rich. It’s his bread and butter, and it’s what he’s based his entire public persona on since the ’80s, and it’s what most of his political supporters say drew them in. But if Attorney General James has anything to say about it, that will all end soon enough.


Juanita Tolliver thegrio.com

Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.

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