Less than two weeks after reports that New York Attorney General Letitia James was seeking to depose Donald Trump in her investigation into his business practices, Trump is suing to end her investigation. He’s doing that at least in part with lawyers paid for by the Republican National Commitee, which has spent more than $120,000 on Trump’s legal bills relating to the investigations by James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance
.“Her mission is guided solely by political animus and a desire to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against a private citizen who she views as a political opponent,” the suit, filed Monday, claims. Where to even start?
First, Trump is the guy who really reintroduced to the United States the idea of overtly trying to criminalize your political opponents, campaigning on “Lock her up” chants and trying to use the power of the presidency to get another country to investigate the person who ultimately defeated him in 2020. It’s predictable but hilarious that he would go all woe-is-me over himself facing an investigation. And note that, unlike Trump’s ideas of how to go after his political opponents, James is doing things by the book. She’s carrying out a methodical investigation. She’s using legal means to try to get Trump to sit for a deposition, as is standard in such a matter.
Second, when it comes to an investigation into his business practices, Trump is “a private citizen.” When it comes to documents relating to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, he’s trying to assert executive privilege, essentially on the claim that he is not a private citizen. He has also leaned on the “special solicitude accorded former Presidents” in his efforts to keep the House Ways and Means Committee from getting his tax returns. (Yet another investigation, Vance’s criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices, already has his tax returns.)
It’s kind of appropriate that this is a legal version of some of the business practices James and Vance are investigating, in which Trump would give vastly different assessments of the value of his assets depending on what was most profitable for him. If he was angling for lower taxes, his buildings were worth practically nothing. If he was trying to get a loan, his buildings were the most valuable property in all of Manhattan. In one case, he told lenders a building was worth $527 million while telling tax officials the same building was worth $16.9 million. Similarly, Trump is either a private citizen or a possessor of executive privilege, depending on which lawsuit or investigation you look at.
The new lawsuit trying to force James to end her investigation sure makes it seem like Trump is sweating over it. And of course this investigation, along with Vance’s and the one by Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah, won’t just go away if Republicans retake the House.