Trump's lawyers accuse NY AG Tish James of political bias and 'prosecutorial misconduct' in fiery court hearing
- Trump's lawyer accused New York AG Letitia James of "prosecutorial misconduct" and political bias in court Thursday.
- But a lawyer from James' office contested that, and said Trump has had longrunning "legal issues around fraud."
Lawyers for former President
The attorney general is engaging in "prosecutorial misconduct that this nation has never seen," Trump's defense lawyer Alina Habba told the judge during the at times contentious hearing, citing numerous instances where James publically criticized Trump.
During her 2018 campaign for attorney general, James called Trump an "illegitimate president" and warned that he "should be scared" of her, his lawyers have complained.
"The only reason she is doing this is because he is a former president, and on the other side of the fence," Habba told the judge of James, who ran as a Democrat.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who promised a ruling by 3 p.m. Thursday, at one point appeared receptive to Habba's argument.
"Do we want to have a society, a country, where someone says, 'I'm going to get this person?' Do we want that?" he asked hypothetically.
Speaking of her pubic statements, he added, "It's arguably a circus that she's done."
But at another point the judge challenged Habba to cite an instance where James actually publicly accused Trump of being guilty, beyond her many promises to prosecute him aggressively.
She cited a single instance, when James, as a candidate, said "we need to find out where he is laundering his money."
Kevin Wallace, an attorney in James' office, contested the attorneys' claims, noting that the
The comments came as Trump's lawyers and an attorney from James' office battled over the attorney general's civil subpoenas demanding testimony and documents from Trump and his two eldest children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
James' office has been conducting a three-year civil investigation into the Trump Organization's finances and whether Trump artificially inflated and deflated the value of his assets for loan and tax purposes.
During Thursday's contentious hearing, Trump family attorney Alan Futerfas also criticized James for conducting a civil inquiry with a criminal component at the same time.
He said that if Trump testified in James' civil inquiry, what he said could be used against him in a criminal capacity either by James or by the Manhattan district attorney, who is conducting a parallel criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.
"The attorney general is working with the district attorney, and the district attorney has an active grand jury," Futerfas told Engoron. He added that Trump would testify before a grand jury if he was granted immunity.
"Get his testimony, give him immunity," Futerfas said.
But the district attorney does not want to give Trump immunity, and now the attorney general is doing an "end run" around the grand jury process by trying to force Trump to sit for a civil deposition, Futerfas argued.
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are also refusing to comply with James' subpoenas for testimony regarding their roles in the family business.
Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition, had tweeted a promise earlier this week that his father would try to turn Thursday's hearing into a referendum on James.
Indeed, Trump's lawyers repeatedly lambasted James as being politically biased and going on a "fishing expedition" in her investigation.
Habba also at one point turned the focus onto former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, asking why James isn't investigating Clinton for having "illegally spied" on Trump, despite the fact that there is no evidence that the Clinton campaign illegally surveilled Trump.
Wallace also disputed the notion that James targeted Trump because of personal animus.
"This was not someone who was unfamiliar to the office and who didn't already have legal issues around fraud," he said of the former president. "I don't think any of this would suggest that there was an improper motive or improper purpose."
"The legal issues are not unique," he said, later adding: "The president is a citizen. He has to come in and appear just like anyone else."
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