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The splashy lawsuit filed Wednesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James against former President Donald Trump and his children is not only frivolous, it is politically punitive and totally unethical.
What the case lacks in merit, it tries to make up for with absolute bulk. But the 220-page civil complaint is not, from start to finish, worth the ink and paper it is printed on. Naturally, that didn’t stop two die-hard Trump haters from prophesying the former president’s demise.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman called it a “radical condemnation” and predicted it “will sting” more than any other Trump investigation.
Not to be outdone, CNN host John King unquestioningly accepted James’ accusations saying “the Trump organization is a sham built on lies.”
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However, no journalist is a lawyer. They are incompetent to assess whether the lawsuit is strong as steel or weak as a castle of dry sand. It’s the latter.
The attorney general alleges that Trump committed fraud by inflating or overstating the value of his real estate, businesses and personal assets to secure loans from banks. But such assessments are notoriously subjective. In valuing his assets, seeking loans and filing tax returns, Trump has always relied scrupulously on the judgment and advice of real estate experts, lawyers and tax accountants. Proving that he defrauded the lenders by following the advice of experienced professionals is a heavy burden that James will find difficult to bear.
Despite his best efforts, the Attorney General was never able to find evidence of criminal acts. Instead, she resorted to a civil action for financial fraud. But in such cases, the plaintiff must necessarily prove that a victim suffered damage in an economic or non-economic way.
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Here, no known victims were injured. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Banks that loaned Trump money profited handsomely from the transactions when they were repaid with substantial interest. They never sued because they were never hurt. Civil fraud is not a victimless crime.
As I wrote in a Fox News Opinion column Over a year ago, Attorney General James’ behavior is an affront to justice. Even before being elected, she vowed to harness the immense powers of that high office to investigate and prosecute then-President Trump.
Never mind that she had no knowledge of any evidence or documentation showing that he had violated a single state law. The lack of facts didn’t deter her from accusing Trump of “cheating Americans.” She publicly denounced him as an “illegitimate president” and constantly repeated her campaign promise to overthrow him.
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James’ bitter crusade has always been an investigation for a felony or tort. She prejudged the merits of a case she had not yet brought and promised a pre-arranged outcome.
The Attorney General is under the false impression that her prosecutorial power is an omnipotent weapon that can be used selectively to punish a political enemy and advance her own partisan aspirations. His malicious behavior is deeply unethical.
Under the code of conduct that governs New York prosecutors, James is required to be fair and impartial. She must refrain from methods that are calculated to produce harm. Its decisions cannot be motivated by political prejudice. Its neutrality must be unquestionable, so that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is grounds for disqualification.
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Throughout her campaign speeches and post-election remarks, James has engaged in legal action against Trump, whether justified or not and long before she had access to any evidence or relevant facts. She has imbued her campaign rhetoric with strident anti-Trump rants. She accused him of conspiracy with foreign governments, obstruction of justice and “pattern and practice of money laundering”.
James has sworn to relentlessly pursue Trump, his organization, his family and anyone in his orbit. “Tackling President Trump and looking at all violations of the law, I think, is not what I’ve seen in my lifetime,” she proclaimed. That was before she even took the oath.
Compare his remarks to the American Bar Association’s Ethical Standard 2.1 which reads: “In deciding whether to initiate or pursue an investigation, the prosecutor shall not be influenced by inappropriate partisan or political considerations…or by personal hostility or animosity toward a potential suspect.”
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No reasonable person can honestly believe that James did not breach his ethical duty under this strict professional standard. On the contrary, it erased any semblance of fairness and impartiality by a pernicious investigation motivated by prejudice. Her hatred of Trump is palpable and laid bare for all to see in her numerous condemnations of her even before she opened her investigation.
In response to the lawsuit, Trump’s legal team is expected to decide to dismiss the case due to overwhelming evidence of bias. James has flagrantly violated the former president’s due process rights, which are intended to protect citizens from frivolous lawsuits. Her own incriminating words can be used against her.
If a motion to dismiss is not granted, Trump could assert so-called “selective prosecutions” as a procedural defense. In other words, he was chosen by James for political and personal reasons, thus violating the guarantee of equal protection under the law.
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Once again, the Attorney General’s invective against Trump is strong evidence that she specifically targeted him unevenly compared to countless other developers who have used the same methods of calculating real estate values, loans and tax breaks. In several cases, the United States Supreme Court has reminded government attorneys that they are constitutionally prohibited from bringing suits “motivated by a discriminatory purpose.”
For four years, Attorney General James has waged a relentless political and personal vendetta against Trump. In so doing, it has smeared its high office and degraded the rule of law based on the principle of fundamental equity.
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