New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil suit against former President Donald Trump and three of his children on Wednesday. Thank goodness her solving New York’s crime problem allows Ms. James to devote resources to civil matters.
She seeks both a “minimum” of $250 million and sanctions that bar the defendants from acquiring real estate in New York, serving as an officer for any corporation there, and applying for loans in the Empire State. It seems harsh but, then again, so does the melodramatic Ms. James.
Political opponents in El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Mexico, countries also facing terrible crime and myriad economic problems at the time, legally pursued former presidents as James does now. This finds no precedent in American history. But among banana republics, the justice system’s being wielded as politics by other means comes as the price of entering the arena.
James fulfilled a campaign promise on Wednesday in filing suit against Trump.
“I’m running for attorney general because I will never be afraid to challenge this illegitimate president when our fundamental rights are at stake,” she explained in a video promoting her campaign ahead of the 2018 Democratic primary.
Four years later, James, either unable to obtain or unwilling to pursue a criminal indictment, has filed a civil suit against the former president.
“He should be charged with obstructing justice,” James said in the 2018 video. “I believe that the president of these United States can be indicted for criminal offenses, and we would join with law enforcement and other attorneys general across this nation in removing this president from office.
“In addition to that, the office of attorney general will continue to follow the money because we believe he’s engaged in a pattern and practice of money laundering. Laundering the money from foreign governments here in New York State, and particularly related to his real estate holdings.”
James charged in her press conference that Trump and his children “violated several state criminal laws.” Then why sue him in civil court rather than try him in a criminal court?
James uses her position to target political enemies by civil suit, press conference, and news release. She displayed this modus operandi in declaring, in almost the exact words she used for Trump, that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a man she had hoped to replace in Albany before poor polling dashed that dream, “violated multiple state and federal laws.” Then she cowered from prosecuting Cuomo for these supposed violations just as she now refuses to pursue a prosecution of Trump.
“The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse,” James said, upon filing a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, “which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”
James boasts of a “comprehensive three-year investigation,” obtaining “millions of pages of documents,” and hearing from “65 witnesses” during the Trump inquiry. When a public official commits those kinds of resources to an investigation that concludes with a civil suit — the kind of cases heard in Judge Hatchett, Judge Judy, and Judge Mathis — The Price Is Right’s sad horn blows in everybody’s ears.
But polling from last week shows that the incumbent attorney general is trailing her Republican challenger by a point and, more troubling for her reelection campaign, receiving just 43 percent of the vote. The fact that New Yorkers soured on her after witnessing and feeling the consequences of another of her campaign promises — ending cash bail — does not surprise.
When James found herself in a tough Democratic primary in 2018, she started saying “Trump” the way other people use “the” and “is.” Four years later, trailing her Republican opponent, she again invokes Trump, Trump, Trump.
James concluded her prepared remarks on Wednesday by characterizing her suit as “making good” on a “promise.”
For so many familiar with her rhetoric in the 2018 election, the promise kept seems like her Third Worldish pledge to pursue a political enemy.