Letitia James Has Been One of Trump's Chief Antagonists in New York

·2 min read
Letitia James, the New York attorney general, holds a press briefing in Manhattan on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.  (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Letitia James, the New York attorney general, holds a press briefing in Manhattan on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

Attorney General Letitia James has assumed the role of Donald Trump’s chief antagonist in New York. Trump has long dismissed her inquiry into his business dealings as a partisan “witch hunt,” painting her as an overly zealous and politically motivated prosecutor.

James, a former New York City councilor from Brooklyn who rose to become the city’s public advocate, was elected attorney general in 2018, becoming the first Black woman to hold statewide office.

She succeeded Barbara D. Underwood, who already had several cases pending against Trump, including an investigation into his charity and lawsuits to stop immigrant families from being separated at the border.

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James vowed to continue the office’s scrutiny of the president. “He should know that we here in New York — and I, in particular — we are not scared of you,” she said in her victory speech. “And as the next attorney general of his home state, I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn.”

She kept her word, becoming a thorn in Trump’s side. In March 2019, James started a civil investigation that focused on whether Trump had systematically misstated the value of his assets to gain financial advantage with lenders and tax authorities.

In January, she accused Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, in court papers of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to bolster its bottom line, saying that the company had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices. That filing came in response to Trump’s effort to block James from questioning him and two of his adult children under oath.

Three months later, she filed a motion to hold Trump in contempt for failing to turn over documents. The filing cited a response from Trump’s legal team arguing that the attorney general’s requests were “grossly overbroad, unintelligible, unduly burdensome” and did not “adequately” describe the requested materials. A judge ruled in James’ favor and imposed a $110,000 penalty.

James won a big victory when a judge ordered Trump to face questioning about his net worth and pattern of financial embellishment.

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