Former President Donald Trump lashed out at New York’s top legal official after the state sued him and three of his children for a quarter of a billion dollars.
He called New York State’s elected Attorney-General Letitia James a “racist” and said the case had only been bought because of her “really bad poll numbers”.
The US$250 million (A$350m) lawsuit, announced on Wednesday, followed a three-year investigation into allegations of fraud by the Trump Organisation. The company has denied any wrongdoing.
The suit alleges that the former US president, with help from three of his children – Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr – falsely inflated the value of his net worth by billions of dollars.
Two other senior members of the organisation, Allen Weisselberg and Jeff McConney, are also named.
Attorney-General Letitia James claimed the Trump Organisation had made more than 200 “false and misleading valuations” of its worth between 2011 and 2021.
“With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organisation, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system,” Ms James said.
She referred the matter to the Southern District Court of New York and the Internal Revenue Service.
One example cited of a “false and misleading valuation” was a Trump branded building on Wall Street, in the heart of New York’s financial district.
Valuations in 2010 and 2012 found the building was worth between US$200m – US$220m. But in 2011, the lawsuit said the firm valued the building at US$524m with that amount growing in subsequent years with the increase put down to valuations by “professionals”.
“These acts of fraud and misrepresentation were similar in nature, were committed by upper management at the Trump Organisation as part of a common endeavour for each annual Statement, and were approved at the highest levels of the Trump Organisation – including by Mr Trump himself,” the lawsuit stated.
‘Art of the steal’
The complaint claimed that this was part of an effort to gain tax and other benefits from banks and insurers.
The lawsuit also said that Trump claimed he had cash on hand that he did not.
“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,” Ms James said, in a reference to the title of Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal.
Ms James is looking for the recovery of the $250m in alleged funds and to bar Trump and his children named in the lawsuit from being a director of a New York business. The suit also seeks to stop the company from doing business in the state.
On the TruthSocial website, Trump derided the lawsuit as a “witch hunt,” a common term he uses to dismiss his critics actions.
“I never thought this case would be brought — until I saw her really bad poll numbers,” he wrote.
“She is a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform.”
He said banks and insurance companies “never had a complaint about me”.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, also dismissed the lawsuit.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney-General’s political agenda,” she said in a statement to CNN.
“It is abundantly clear that the Attorney-General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place.”
It’s the latest legal woe for Trump in the last few months. He is already under investigation for allegedly storing secret papers at his Florida home which should have been in a secure archive.