NEW YORK (AP) – As a federal judge weighs a lawsuit by Donald Trump seeking to block a civil investigation into his business practices, an attorney for the New York attorney general’s office says learned Friday that evidence found during a three-year investigation could support legal action against the former chairman, his company, or both.
The attorney, Andrew Amer, said at the hearing in Trump’s case against Attorney General Letitia James that “apparently a substantial amount of evidence has been obtained that could support the filing of enforcement proceedings.” , although a final decision on the submission of such an action has not been taken.
Amer, a special counsel at James’s office, said the office was “near the end” of the civil investigation, which James said has uncovered evidence Trump’s company misrepresented. of properties such as skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for more than a decade.
James could decide to sue and ask for financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even ban them from engaging in certain types of business, as happened in January when a judge The judge banned former drug company executive Martin Shkreli from the pharmaceutical industry for life.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said that a parallel criminal investigation into Trump is continuing, although the deadline for a grand jury to hear evidence on that matter expired last month.
Mark Pomerantz, the head of the criminal investigation, said in a February resignation letter that he believes there is “sufficient evidence to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of employment. financial reporting errors.
Trump has denied wrongdoing. His lawyers argued that James was using her civil investigation to gain access to information that could then be used against him in a criminal matter.
Attorneys for Trump, seeking to block the civil investigation, argued at Friday’s hearing that James’ investigation was a politically motivated fishing expedition and that by targeting him, she is violating Trump’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Trump, a Republican, is seeking an order to cease the civil investigation. James, a Democrat, filed a dismissal of the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes said she will review both requests and issue a written decision. She did not provide a timetable for a ruling.
Sannes listened to arguments from Amer and Trump’s attorney Alina Habba for about an hour via video and asked probing questions about recent legal battles over subpoenas for Trump’s testimony and evidence. , as well as the role of federal courts to intervene in a state matter.
Trump sued James in federal court in upstate New York in December after her office issued a subpoena asking him and his two eldest children – Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. – answer questions under oath. A state appeals court heard arguments Wednesday as the Trumps sought to overturn a lower judge’s decision to enforce the subpoena.
Habba argued at Friday’s hearing that James was investigating Trump making good on promises she made during her 2018 campaign for attorney general, using her office to harass him and the public. his company with numerous subpoenas and requests for evidence.
“We made millions and millions and millions of pages” of proof, Habba told Sannes. “We continue to receive subpoenas. They keep looking for things. If they can’t find it, they look for it again.”
Amer countered that the investigation was on solid legal grounds, noting that the state judge overseeing legal battles over subpoenas issued by the attorney general’s office found that there is “enough basis for further investigation”.
James’s office began investigating Trump in 2019 after his former personal attorney Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump had a history of lying about the value of his assets to obtain favorable loan terms and benefits. about tax. Amer said the investigation, now “nearly concluded,” has uncovered evidence that could support a civil enforcement action.
All of that, Amer said, “really closes the door to any argument” by Trump’s attorneys that the attorney general’s office is proceeding in a bad faith.
Habba also took issue with the way the investigation and state courts scrambled to subpoena Trump’s business records and testimony, telling Sannes: “We’re sitting with our hands tied. We are simply dodging subpoenas at this point. ”
James’s office and Trump’s attorneys have made several agreements to extend the deadline for a potential decision, writing in a court filing that doing so “is in their mutual interest and interest.” . An agreement posted in state court sets an April 30 deadline, but Habba said Trump’s attorneys recently agreed to another extension.
Trump’s calls could further delay the conclusion of the investigation. The state Intermediate Court of Appeals that heard arguments Wednesday in the battle for Trump’s testimony is expected not to hear his appeal of a recent contempt finding. court until the fall.
Judge Arthur Engoron on Wednesday agreed to lift the contempt finding and fined him $10,000 a day for being slow to respond to James’ subpoena for documents and other evidence if Trump meets certain conditions. by May 20. Those include paying a $110,000 fine. and filed paperwork detailing his efforts to locate subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies.
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