(The Hill) — New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Wednesday announced a civil lawsuit against former President Trump, the Trump Organization and three of his adult children, alleging over a decade of fraud. The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that the former president’s company falsely inflated and deflated the value of assets in order to pay lower taxes and get better insurance coverage.
The civil lawsuit is seeking $250 million in financial penalties and asking the State Supreme Court in New York to bar Trump and his children named in the suit from serving as an officer or director of any corporation registered or licensed in the state.
It also asks the court to bar Trump and the Trump Organization from any real estate acquisition in New York or from applying for loans from any financial institution in the state for five years.
Here are five things to know amid the lawsuit announcement.
The lawsuit comes after a three-year civil investigation
James has been leading a three-year investigation into the former president’s family business and finances in the state.
James at a press conference Wednesday said her office had interviewed more than 65 witnesses and reviewed millions of documents throughout the probe.
The attorney general said Trump “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” and that he did so with the help of his children and with two named former Trump Organization executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
The lawsuit alleges that the group engaged in a conspiracy to violate state laws, including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements and committing insurance fraud, James argued.
Alleged federal crimes, including bank fraud, are being referred to federal prosecutors and the IRS.
For Trump, New York is close to home
The former president began his career in New York and started building his business empire there in 1976.
The Trump Organization is a real estate development company that owns and operates a number of resorts, hotels, golf clubs and other businesses in New York.
The famed Trump Tower looms on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, but toward the end of his four-year White House stint, Trump announced he was switching his primary residence from New York to Florida.
The then-president had retreated often to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida during his time in office, and has since made the resort his primary home — a move rumored to have been made for tax purposes.
But even after turning his back on Manhattan, Trump has maintained a large footprint in New York.
Trump’s two adult sons now run the Trump Organization, which he turned over in 2017 as he assumed the presidency.
Trump’s children are involved
The lawsuit names Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump alongside their father and alleges they engaged in a conspiracy to commit the fraud crimes.
Eric Trump was questioned back in 2020 and reportedly pleaded the Fifth to over 500 questions related to his work within the Trump Organization.
James subpoenaed Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. earlier this year, and all three were deposed. Trump sat for questioning last month and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to all inquiries.
Trump’s children have played prominent roles in their father’s business orbit. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump both currently serve as executive vice presidents at the Trump Organization.
When Ivanka Trump served as a White House adviser to her father during his presidential term, her business connections to the Trump Organization raised concerns about conflicts of interest.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump decried the lawsuit on social media after the announcement, accusing James of a “witch hunt” and arguing that the lawsuit is politically motivated to boost James’ reelection bid ahead of this year’s midterms.
“This is all about politics. Weaponizing her office to go after her political opponents!” Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter after the announcement.
He and Eric Trump both shared video clips of James vowing to go after Trump as attorney general.
Former Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday critiqued James for trying “to drag the children into this.”
The fight between James and Trump has been intense
Like his sons, Trump has long dismissed the probe and argued that the investigation was politically motivated against him.
“Attorney General Letitia “Peekaboo” James, a total crime-fighting disaster in New York, is spending all of her time fighting for very powerful and well-represented banks and insurance companies, who were fully paid, made a lot of money, and never had a complaint about me, instead of fighting murder and violent crime, which is killing New York State,” Trump said on Truth Social shortly after the lawsuit was announced.
“She is a failed A.G. whose lack of talent in the fight against crime is causing record numbers of people and companies to flee New York. Bye, bye!”
James has been vocal about her inquiry into the former president, a fact that has fueled the Trumps’ arguments that her inquiry is politically motivated.
But the attorney general has consistently hit back at the criticisms.
“My office will follow the facts of any case, wherever they lead. Make no mistake: No one is above the law, not even the President,” James wrote on Twitter back in 2019.
She echoed the same sentiment after the lawsuit was announced Wednesday. “There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James wrote on Twitter.
It’s not the only legal battle Trump is facing
As the longstanding New York investigation turns into a lawsuit, Trump continues to face a slate of other legal challenges, including probes and lawsuits over his presidential campaign, his time in office and his business practices.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of last month’s FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Agents executing a search warrant at the Palm Beach, Fl., resort found over 100 classified documents and dozens of empty folders marked classified, taken from the White House and stored at Trump’s home after the end of his time in office.
Court records revealed investigators suspected Trump of multiple violations of the Espionage Act for his mishandling of the materials, and Trump’s legal team is now engaged in a battle to block the DOJ from reviewing the seized materials.
The Department of Justice and a House select committee also continue to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Members of the House committee have pushed for the DOJ, which has the power to prosecute that the committee lacks, to home their probe in on Trump and criminally investigate the former president.
The Jan. 6’s committee’s Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has been the target of much ire from her former party leader for her work on the panel, said the investigation had gathered evidence of “a supreme dereliction of duty.”
In Georgia, a special grand jury is investigating the efforts of Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) has subpoenaed a number of prominent figures in Trump’s sphere as part of the inquiry, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Cleta Mitchell.