New York Attorney General Letitia James is considering suing ex-President Donald Trump and at least one of his adult children in the Trump Organisation inquiry after rejecting a settlement offer from his lawyers in one of the most contentious tax evasion cases in Manhattan.
Trump's family business could face stiff financial and operational penalties if a trial ensues, the New York Times said today.
The New York Attorney General's office rebuffed an offer from Trump's lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former President and his family real estate business, paving the way for a lawsuit that would accuse Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
James is also considering suing at least one of Trump's adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at the Trump Organisation.
The likelihood of a lawsuit emerged after James's office rejected at least one settlement offer from Trump's lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organisation for months has made overtures to the Attorney General's office - and the two sides could still reach a deal - there is no indication that a settlement will materialise anytime soon, the Times said.
James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three and a half year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former President's chief antagonists.
Trump has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated "Witch Hunt". He has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling James, who is Black, a racist.
A lawsuit from James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former President and his business, which she vowed before taking office to "vigorously investigate". If the case goes to trial and Trump loses, a judge could impose financial penalties and restrict the former President's business operations in New York - all potentially in the midst of a 2024 presidential campaign that he is expected to launch before the mid-terms.
Trump may be unfazed by any lawsuit as he has a long track record of leveraging law enforcement scrutiny to energise his base while portraying himself as a political martyr.
And James is not assured victory if the lawsuit proceeds to trial; if it does, Trump might deploy his favored legal tactics - delay and litigate every last detail of a case - to stall in the coming months or years, the Times said.
Besides James, the FBI launched investigations into Trump, whose final weeks in office are under scrutiny in at least three separate criminal investigations. The FBI last month searched his home and club in Florida as part of a federal investigation into his removal of sensitive material from the White House, federal authorities recently seized the phones of two of his close advisers and sent subpoenas to dozens of his aides in an inquiry into Trump's efforts to reverse his election loss; and a Georgia district attorney has cast a sprawling net in an investigation into potential election interference by the former president and his allies, the Times said .
Trump has denied all wrongdoing, and it is unclear whether any of these investigations will result in charges against the former President. His company, however, is already under indictment in an unrelated case.
The Trump Organisation is set to go on trial next month for criminal tax charges in Manhattan, a case that could expose the company to steep financial penalties if it is convicted. And although Trump was not accused of wrongdoing in that case, in which the Attorney General's office is also participating, his longtime chief financial officer recently pleaded guilty to participating in the tax scheme and agreed to testify at the company's trial, giving prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office the upper hand.
"He needs to be held accountable," James has said of Trump.