Attorneys for the Donald J. Trump Foundation accused the New York attorney general’s office of political motivation in its civil lawsuit against the nonprofit, citing recent comments made by Attorney General Letitia James, who took office in January.
“Newly elected New York Attorney General Letitia James ran on an anti-Trump campaign where she expressed grave antipathy and animus toward Mr. Trump,” attorneys for the foundation, as well as President Donald Trump and his three eldest children, wrote in the filing Friday.
“Attorney General James has referred to President Trump as an ‘illegitimate President,’” the filing states, “and has vowed to ‘use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well.’”
The comments by James, a Democrat, drew scrutiny when she made them late last year. Prosecutors generally avoid implying that their office will pursue specific targets, in part because such comments can later be used by defendants to allege bias.
Delaney Kempner, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said on Monday: “Once again, the Trump Foundation is making a sad attempt to distract from the real merits of this case, which are based on facts and the law. They have previously failed in their argument that this is politically motivated and we are confident that justice will prevail.”
In an earlier effort to dismiss the lawsuit, before James took office, the foundation had alleged political bias on the part of the attorney general’s office, which for years has been headed by a Democrat. A New York state court judge denied the motion to dismiss in November.
The suit, which was filed in June 2018, was brought by James’s predecessor, Barbara Underwood.
In addition to the specific remarks about James, the foundation’s attorneys said repeatedly that “politically motivated claims for equitable and injunctive relief are unwarranted on the facts and the law.”
The suit names as defendants the foundation, Trump and his three eldest children – Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka – all of whom sat on the charity’s board. It alleges that they violated federal and state charities law with a “persistent” pattern of conduct that included unlawful coordination with the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
The attorney general’s office wants $2.8 million in restitution, plus additional penalties. The office is also seeking to ban Trump from serving as a director of any New York nonprofit for 10 years and to prohibit the other board members, the Trump children, from serving for one year. The foundation agreed in December to dissolve under court supervision.
The filing made last week also disclosed that in addition to attorney Alan Futerfas, who has represented the foundation throughout the lawsuit, the nonprofit has added another lawyer to work on the case: Marc L. Mukasey, who has had a close relationship with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.