Trump accused of another quid pro quo, this time with New York

By Kyle Cheney

President Donald Trump appeared Thursday to link his administration's policies toward New York to a demand that the state drop investigations and lawsuits related to his administration as well as his personal business and finances.

Hours before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was set to meet the president at the White House, Trump tweeted that Cuomo “must understand” that National Security far exceeds politics,” a reference to his administration’s recent decision to halt New York’s access to the Global Entry and other “trusted traveler” programs that allow New Yorkers faster border crossings and shorter airport lines.

Trump continued, “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes.”

Trump’s invocation of “lawsuits & harrassment” was a reference to the state’s numerous lawsuits against his administration and also against Trump’s business, which is based in New York.

That prompted Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), one of the House managers who prosecuted Trump’s impeachment in the Senate, to accuse the president of “expanding his abuse of power to blackmailing U.S. states (threatening millions of people he supposedly works for). In this case, he's holding New York state hostage to try to stop investigations into his prior tax fraud.”

State attorney general Letitia James has subpoenaed for Trump’s financial records, and the state is pursuing multiple inquiries about the Trump Organization’s business practices. James also just secured a $2 million settlement from Trump’s now-defunct charitable foundation, which was accused of numerous violations of misuse of funds.

The settlement prompted a sharp rebuke from Trump, who tweeted on Nov. 7 that James’ suit against the foundation was for “political purposes.”

“When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down,” James said Thursday, responding to Trump’s tweet. “Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.”

Trump’s linkage of the investigations and lawsuits to his national security-related decisions involving New York immediately called back to House Democrats’ warning that Trump — if acquitted in last week’s impeachment trial — could leverage federal resources to coerce states to take actions that benefit him personally or politically.

“An acquittal would also provide license to President Trump and his successors to use taxpayer dollars for personal political ends ... Presidents could also hold hostage federal funds earmarked for States — such as money for natural disasters, highways, and healthcare — unless and until State officials perform personal political favors,” the House wrote in its impeachment trial brief. “Any Congressional appropriation would be an opportunity for a President to solicit a favor for his personal political purposes — or for others to seek to curry favor with him. Such an outcome would be entirely incompatible with our constitutional system of self-government.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler drew a link between Trump’s tweet about New York and the “quid pro quo” that got him impeached: withholding millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine while demanding that the country investigate his Democratic rivals.

“Dear @SenateGOP, This is what another quid pro quo by the President of the United States looks like,” Nadler tweeted, pointing to Trump’s comment.

Some Capitol Hill Democrats compared Trump’s tweet to his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when, after Zelensky referenced the U.S. provision of Javelin missiles to Ukraine, Trump pivoted to a request for the country to investigate Democrats, including former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival who had announced a 2020 challenge against him.