New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday she was suing former president Donald Trump, three of his children, and his company, alleging business fraud. Here’s a quick rundown, based on Globe wire services and major media reports, of what you need to know.
‘Art of the steal’
“Following a comprehensive three-year investigation by my office including .. interviews with more than 65 witnesses and review of millions of documents that were submitted by Mr. Trump and others. I am announcing that today we are filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the law as part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family, and his company,” James said.
“The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” she said.
“Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal,” she said.
Who exactly is being sued?
The defendants include Trump, his children Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, and two long-time company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
How did the scheme allegedly work?
The 214-page lawsuit suit alleges business fraud. James said that Trump and the Trump Organization “repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to pay lower taxes, to satisfy continuing loan agreements, and to induce insurance companies to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.”
From 2011 to 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization created more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets on his annual Statements of Financial Condition to defraud financial institutions, James’s office said.
What penalties does the attorney general want imposed?
James is seeking a host of penalties. Here are two of her top demands. She wants an order that Trump “disgorge” - pay back - all the financial benefits obtained through fraud, estimating that number to be at least $250 million. She would also like to permanently bar Trump and his three children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state.
Is this a criminal case?
The case is a civil case, but James said her office had found criminal violations and had referred them to the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service for criminal investigation. Asked whether state charges could be brought, she also said her office is cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney, who is conducting a “parallel criminal investigation.”
What does Trump have to say?
When James brought Trump in for a deposition during her investigation, he was close-mouthed. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to respond to questions on the grounds that his answers might incriminate him more than 400 times.
On Wednesday, Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.” She said James’s office was “prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place” and “we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
How much other trouble does Trump face?
Trump is in a lot of legal hot water, though he is famous for slipping out of tough spots. His other major legal problems include an unprecedented FBI investigation into his handling of classified records, and inquiries into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The Trump Organization is also slated to go on trial in October in New York on charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney that it schemed to give untaxed perks to senior executives, including Weisselberg, Weisselberg has pleaded guilty and will have to testify at the trial. But Trump is not a defendant, and Weisselberg has refused to cooperate with the broader investigation.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.