By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York appeals court on Tuesday rejected Donald Trump’s bid to end the state attorney general’s lawsuit accusing him and his family business of “staggering” fraud, but dismissed all claims against his daughter Ivanka Trump and said the remaining case may be limited further.
Attorney General Letitia James’ civil case filed last September accused Trump of lying from 2011 to 2021 about asset values, including for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and Trump Tower penthouse in Manhattan, as well as his own net worth, to obtain better terms from lenders and insurers.
The lawsuit seeks at least $250 million in damages from Trump, his adult sons Donald Jr and Eric, the Trump Organization and others, and to stop the Trumps from running businesses in New York.
Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing. He has also called James’ case and two unrelated criminal indictments, where he has pleaded not guilty, part of a Democratic “witch hunt.”
In a 5-0 decision, the Appellate Division in Manhattan said state law gave James power to police alleged “repeated or persistent fraud or illegality,” and conduct lengthy and complex investigations many years after suspected misconduct began.
But it said statutes of limitations prevented James, who had probed Trump’s business dealings for three years, from suing over claims that arose before July 13, 2014, or Feb. 6, 2016, depending on the defendant.
It also said all claims against Ivanka Trump should be dismissed because they were filed too late, and because she was no longer with the Trump Organization at the relevant time.
The court returned the case to Justice Arthur Engoron of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan to determine which parts could proceed. An Oct. 2 trial is scheduled, just as campaigning for the Republican nomination for the 2024 election is heating up. Trump was questioned under oath for the case in April.
“There is a mountain of evidence that shows Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for significant economic gain,” a spokeswoman for James said. “This decision allows us to hold him accountable for that fraud, and we intend to do so.”
During oral arguments on June 6, a lawyer for James said Trump’s transactions didn’t occur in a vacuum, and that letting him commit fraud hurts honest participants in banking, insurance and real estate markets.
Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Donald Trump and most of the other defendants, called the decision “the first step” toward ending a case that James should not have filed.
“The correct application of the law will now limit appropriately the previously unlimited reach of the attorney general,” he said. “We remain confident that once all the real facts are known, there will be no doubt President Trump has built an extraordinarily successful business empire.”
Ivanka Trump’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the criminal cases, Trump faces a 34-count indictment obtained by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over hush money payments to a porn star, and a 38-count U.S. Department of Justice indictment saying he mishandled classified documents.
The New York civil case is New York v Trump et al, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, No. 2023-00717.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Conor Humphries, Jonathan Oatis and Alistair Bell)
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