NEW YORK (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his family on Tuesday called a civil investigation of their business practices “selective prosecution,” arguing that an email by New York state’s top prosecutor to her supporters showed she was motivated by politics.
The Trumps are trying to stop Attorney General Letitia James from forcing Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, to testify in the probe into whether their family business misrepresented the value of its assets for financial benefit.
Neither Trump nor his children have been accused of criminal wrongdoing. James’ three-year-long civil probe is separate from a criminal inquiry now led by new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg into the Trump Organization’s business practices.
Lawyers for Republican Trump said in a court filing that James, a Democrat, was targeting the former president because of her “dislike of his speech and political views” in an effort to “interfere with his political ambitions.” Trump, who left office last year, has not ruled out running for president again in 2024.
James is running for re-election in November. Trump’s lawyers cited an email James’ campaign sent her supporters on Jan. 9, after she had subpoenaed Trump and his children, stating that Trump “might win” in 2024. She said in the email that the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol “may be traced back to one person: Trump himself.”
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, motivated by Trump’s false claims that the November 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him through fraud.
“There can be no stronger basis for a claim of selective prosecution than the evidence presented herein,” the Trumps’ lawyers wrote, calling the email “extraordinary, unprecedented and frankly appalling.”
In a statement, James called the filing a “baseless attempt” to “evade accountability.”
“Throughout the three years of this investigation, they have never questioned our legal authority until Donald J. Trump himself was subpoenaed to testify,” James said. “As with every investigation, we will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead.”
James has been investigating whether the Trumps inflated real estate values to obtain bank loans, and reduced values to lower tax bills. In one example, she said Trump’s annual financial statements said an apartment he personally owned in Trump Tower was 30,000 square feet, when it was in fact a third that size.
During a political rally in Texas on Saturday, Trump called for protests against prosecutors in New York and Georgia investigating him and his company.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard Goller and Grant McCool)