Lawyers for Trump and the New York attorney general clashed in federal court on Friday.
The New York AG’s office said the inquiry into the Trump Organization is “totally appropriate.”
Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and sued in federal court to shut it down.
Investigators in New York pushed back against former President Donald Trump’s bid to stop the three-year inquiry into his namesake business, saying they’ve collected a “substantial amount of evidence” that could support an enforcement action against the Trump Organization.
“There’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding, although the final determination on filing that proceeding has yet to be made,” New York Assistant Attorney General Andrew Amer said during an hourlong court hearing Friday in Albany, New York.
New York Attorney General Letitia James had previously said that her office “uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.”
But Amer’s remarks, attesting to the scope of the evidence against Trump, came as the attorney general’s office defended the investigation against a legal attack from the former president in federal court.
Trump sued James last year in a Hail Mary bid to halt her office’s civil inquiry, arguing that the New York attorney general’s past comments showed that the investigation was politically motivated. In court papers and his own public statements, Trump has deployed a now-familiar label for the investigation: “witch hunt.”
Arguing Friday in Albany, assistant New York attorney general Andrew Amer said the investigation commenced not out of political animus but rather in response to the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer, who called the former president a “con man” and a “cheat” in a 2019 appearance before the House Oversight Committee.
Amer said it was “totally appropriate” for James’ office to have opened the investigation on those grounds.
The hearing unfolded just days after a New York state Supreme Court justice lifted a contempt order against Trump in connection with the state attorney general’s investigation. The state judge, Arthur F. Engoron, held Trump in contempt last month after finding that the former president had failed to comply with a December subpoena from James’ office seeking records from his personal files.
As a condition of lifting the contempt order, Engoron ordered Trump to pay $110,000 — the total he accrued from his $10,000 daily fines. Engoron threatened to reimpose the contempt order if Trump did not meet the conditions by May 20.
Referring to Engoron on Friday, Amer said the state Supreme Court justice “has repeatedly found that the investigation is lawful.” Amer said Trump’s lawsuit, filed in the federal trial court in Albany, called for an inappropriate intervention in a state court action.
The case involves “a subpoena enforcement action brought in the state court against an ordinary citizen and nothing more,” he said.
Amer said the volume of evidence, combined with the state judge’s past rulings, “really shuts the door” on Trump’s arguments for ending the investigation.
Judge Brenda Sannes, a 2014 appointee to the federal bench, did not issue an immediate ruling.
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