WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is no stranger to legal scrutiny, but there’s something different about the $250 million civil lawsuit New York Attorney General Letitia James filed against him Wednesday: This time, it’s as personal for him as it is political.
James’ suit strikes directly at Trump’s children and at the core of his persona as a billionaire businessman who left an indelible imprint on New York’s skyline.
The real estate empire he flaunted was propped up by a network of fraudulent business dealings that played out for years, the suit alleges. If James prevails in court, the former president and three of his children would be banned from serving as officers of companies in New York — the state that gave rise to his global brand.
“It means a lot to him that this is happening in his home state,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump hotel-casino executive. “He can live in Florida and spend most of his time in New Jersey, but this is a New Yorker through and through in his own mind. It’s a personal blow for him that this even happened.”
Upping the stakes, James named Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as co-defendants in accusing the former president’s companies of manipulating business records to secure favorable loans, fool insurers and win tax benefits.
“As executive vice presidents, the three children were intimately involved in the operation of the Trump Organization’s business,” James’ lawsuit alleges. “They were aware of the true financial performance of the company.”
Though the lawsuit does not formally seek a corporate death penalty dissolution of Trump’s empire, a defeat in court could cripple the organization at the heart of his art-of-the-deal brand in business, television and politics.