Trump Demands Court manufacture current York AG Quit Investigating The President. By Which He Means HIM.
Trump Demands Court Make New York AG Quit Investigating The President. By Which He Means HIM.
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In December, Donald Trump sued New York Attorney General Letitia James in federal court, demanding that US District Judge Brenda K. Sannes tell that mean lady to stop doing investigations of the former president, which is illegal, and unconstitutional, and “witch hunt.”
Through their attorney, Alina Habba, the Trump family and their eponymous business are making the bizarre argument that James deprived them of due process. Never mind that a state court has supervised the investigation for over a year, found that there was ample predicate to justify opening an inquiry in the first place, held multiple hearings, and issued several orders, at least one of which has been appealed. Justice can only be served if Judge Sannes seizes jurisdiction from New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron and tells the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to back all the way off.
In service of this drunken windmill tilt, Habba filed a letter brief yesterday lawsplaining why federal court is the appropriate venue for a claim which was already rejected by a state judge. Her argument appears to rest on two seemingly contradictory statements.
She begins by describing “a state investigation that was commenced in bad faith against a then-sitting President,” and goes on to claim that Trump’s rights weren’t adjudicated because he wasn’t added as a defendant until 2022: “Mr. Trump was not a party to the State Proceeding when the 2020 Orders were decided, meaning that these decisions did not adjudicate any of his rights,” she writes.
He’s like Schroedinger’s MAGA hat, simultaneously the leader of the free world and some dipshit demanding extra bacon at the Mar-a-Lago omelet station.
In fact, Habba insists that her client is entitled to litigate from the posture of a sitting president, despite the fact that he was just a blowhard on a golf cart when he was added to the case.
“Trump v. Vance not only involved the same named plaintiff-Mr. Trump-but it also dealt with a nearly identical set of underlying facts as are present here – a state-level prosecutor who was ‘investigating [a president] and his businesses’ through the issuance of subpoenas,” she writes, invoking the Supreme Court case holding that a sitting president is not immune from criminal investigation. “While finding that a President was not wholly immune from such proceedings, the Supreme Court cautioned that ‘state prosecutors may have political motivations’ and could utilize ‘harassing subpoenas’ as a political weapon against a President.”
In point of fact, Donald Trump is not the president. Civil subpoenas to a private citizen are not “nearly identical” to criminal subpoenas of the chief executive. And the Court didn’t find that “a President was not wholly immune from such proceedings” – it held that the president is not at all immune from criminal investigative process, much less civil.
Nevertheless, Habba argues that “Mr. Trump is ‘not relegated only to the challenges available to private citizens’ but has the additional option of ‘rais[ing] subpoena-specific constitutional challenges, in a . . . federal forum.'”
Just yesterday her client put out another statement calling AG James “racist,” but Habba is still yelling that the OAG is trampling his free speech rights by asking him questions about his business, and “the investigation in its entirety is per se unconstitutional.” In support of this argument she references Lamb’s Chapel v. Ctr. Moriches Union, a case in which the Supreme Court held that a school system couldn’t exclude religious organizations from using facilities it had opened up to the general public. And when you figure out what this has to do with the instant lawsuit – other than the fact that it was argued by Trumpland lawyer Jay Sekulow – do let us know.
In summary, the whole thing is crazy. Not as luridly batshit as the nastygram Habba dropped on the Pulitzer Committee demanding that it revoke prizes for the Times and the Post – nothing can top that. But definitely one of her wackier productions.
Trump v. James [Docket via Court Listener]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.