EXCLUSIVE: AG James tells theGrio she’s confident she will prevail in court battle against Trump, explains why she dropped out of the race for NY governor and calls on state attorney generals to fight against voter suppression.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has emerged as a powerful figure since launching several high-profile investigations, including probes into suspected corruption by the National Rifle Association (NRA), former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations – which subsequently led to his resignation – and most notably the financial dealings of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Attorney General James’s fraud investigation into Trump, his family and the Trump Organization took a new turn this month after the Empire State’s top prosecutor subpoenaed the former president, his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump to testify in a deposition. Since then, Donald Trump’s legal team has motioned to have Attorney General James’s lawsuit dismissed.
Trump has repeatedly called the AG’s civil suit, first launched in 2019, a political “witch hunt.” During a rally in Texas on Saturday, Trump repeated those claims and went so far as to call James and Fani Willis – the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia who is probing Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election – “radical, vicious racist prosecutors.”
Both James and Willis happen to be Black women.
In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Attorney General James reacted to Donald Trump’s public attacks on her and dismissed any suggestion that her office’s investigation is politically motivated.
“No one is above the law,” James told theGrio. “I pursue cases based on evidence, based on facts and based on an analysis of the law … the politics stop at my door.”
James acknowledged that Trump’s targeting of her investigation as a “political witch hunt” is based on previous statements she made about him during her 2018 campaign for attorney general.
“The reality is that notwithstanding some of the comments that I made during the campaign, now is the time to govern and now is the time to uphold the law,” she said.
In a court filing, the attorney general accused Trump of using “fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James addresses a news conference at her office, in New York, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Attorney General James’s office filed an opposition to Trump’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“He will not evade us. He will not stop us from investigating into ensuring that individuals – no matter what title they hold – are following the law,” she told theGrio. “We will continue to investigate.”
She added, “I am confident that we will win.”
It was James’s high-profile court battle with the former president, among many other cases her office is overseeing, that led her to unexpectedly drop out of the race for New York governor to instead seek reelection for attorney general so that she could continue her work.
“There was a Hobson’s decision that I had to make, and it was very difficult,” said James. “When individuals put on my desk all of the cases that I had to review – briefs that I had to read, memos that I had to review and individuals that I had to speak to – and then a campaign schedule … there was no way that I could do both.”
She added, “I followed my heart and I honored my commitment and the oath that I made that I swore to the people of the great state of New York that I would complete my work.
“I give it my all when I take on something, and there was no way that I could do both. And I do not believe in divided loyalties. My loyalty is to the residents of the state of New York and I’m going to finish my work.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives for a press conference, June 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
During a wide-ranging interview with theGrio, Attorney General James also addressed the wave of restrictive voting laws being passed in states across the country, including Georgia and Texas where The United States Department of Justice has filed lawsuits to combat voter suppression.
James said that even in the blue state of New York, her office has had to combat attempts to stop Black and Brown communities from exercising their right to vote.
“We’ve taken action against individuals in upstate New York who made robocalls to Black voters, basically telling them that the date to vote was in fact wrong … We’ve taken action against some officers in Rensselaer County – near the capital region, near Albany – individuals who basically would not place early voting sites in communities of color,” said the attorney general.
The former Public Advocate of New York said that on the state level, it is incumbent upon state attorney generals to take on efforts intended to stop communities of color from voting.
“It’s up to state attorney generals all across this state to defend the law and to ensure that individuals have access to voting, and that we take action to basically remove any and all barriers to that basic and fundamental right, and to remember all that we did and all of those who sacrificed their life, their blood, sweat and their tears to get us to this point.”
James also took aim at Democrats Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona, without naming them, for failing to help their Democratic colleagues pass federal voting reform legislation.
“It’s unfortunate that here we are, 50 some odd years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, that there are individuals in Congress who are Democrats, who unfortunately do not want to defend the right to vote,” James said, adding, “Who do not want to protect the interest of marginalized and vulnerable populations. Who unfortunately are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to voter suppression, which is happening across this country.”
The New York attorney general added, “We cannot and must not go backwards. The law is there and should be used both as a sword and as a shield to protect the basic right to vote. And no one should stand in our way.”
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