The Political Backdrop of Letitia James’s Lawsuit Against Trump

by 24USATVSept. 21, 2022, 11:01 p.m. 15
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Ms. James’s political ambition has long been a focus of Republicans seeking to depict her investigation into Mr. Trump as tainted. Ms. James, who was elected to the office in 2018 and is running for re-election in November, contemplated a run for governor this year. She pulled back after it became clear that Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York was in a strong position heading into her Democratic primary — which she went on to win by nearly 50 percentage points.

As state attorney general, she lacks the authority to criminally charge Mr. Trump in this case (though she referred the findings to prosecutors). But in 2018, during her campaign for her office, Ms. James said she believed that Mr. Trump, who was then the president, “can be indicted for criminal offenses.”

Legal experts criticized those remarks at the time as a breach of law-enforcement protocol.

And Mr. Trump called Ms. James, who is Black, a “racist” — and dismissed her entire investigation using a stock phrase he employed throughout the Russia investigation and two congressional impeachment inquiries: “witch hunt.”

During an interview this summer, Ms. James said, “This has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the law.”

In the same appearance — during a live taping of Pod Save America, a political podcast run by former aides to former President Barack Obama — she said, “We all know that he used funny numbers in his financial documents,” adding, “And he got caught.”

In January, Ms. James filed a 115-page motion to compel Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to comply with a subpoena, which they ignored. The document laid out many of the allegations that were detailed in Wednesday’s complaint.

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