Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr in an interview with FOX News on Wednesday said New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his family is a “gross overreach.”
“It’s hard for me not to conclude it’s a political hit job,” Barr said. “This is a woman who campaigned for office saying that — promising she was going to go after Trump, which I think is a tremendous abuse of office to go head-hunting and targeting individuals. So, I think she was targeting Trump. And this is, after three years, a civil lawsuit, the gist of which is that, when the Trump Organization borrowed money, Trump personally guaranteed those loans.”
“This, to me, looks like gross overreach, which I think is going to end up backfiring on them, because I think it will make people sympathetic for Trump, that this is another example of people piling on because of Trump derangement syndrome, this strong desire to punish him,” Barr said.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Meantime, here’s where we begin this hour.
New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James is suing former President Trump, three of his children, and his business, accusing the former president of — quote — “numerous acts of fraud.”
SANDRA SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: James says President Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth to achieve — to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York.
Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Here to react is Bill Barr, the former attorney general under President Trump.
Mr. Attorney General, good to have you in today to talk about all of this.
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here, yes.
ROBERTS: It would seem that her goal is to bar anybody with the last name Trump from ever working for the Trump Organization again.
ROBERTS: It would seem that her goal is to eviscerate the family business.
What do you think of what she’s doing?
BARR: It’s hard for me not to conclude it’s a political hit job.
And this is a woman who campaigned for office saying that — promising she was going to go after Trump, which I think is a tremendous abuse of office to go head-hunting and targeting individuals. So, I think she was targeting Trump. And this is, after three years, a civil lawsuit, the gist of which is that, when the Trump Organization borrowed money, Trump personally guaranteed those loans.
And to support that, she’s claiming that he inflated his assets on his financial statements. Now, I’m not even sure she has a good case against Trump himself. But what ultimately persuades me that this is a political hit job is, she grossly overreaches when she tries to drag the children into the — this.
Yes, they had roles in the business, but this was his personal financial statement. It was prepared by the CFO. Accounting firms were involved in it. The children aren’t going to know the details of that and be able — and nor are they expected in the real world to do their own due diligence and have it reviewed independently.
And so this — this, to me, looks like gross overreach, which I think is going to end up backfiring on them, because I think it will make people sympathetic for Trump, that this is another example of people piling on because of Trump derangement syndrome, this strong desire to punish him.
SMITH: This is a long series of allegations.
And welcome to you. Thank you very much for joining us.
Including his children — the former president, his children and his business, in a series of allegations against the former president. It included misstating the value and the size of his triplex apartment in Trump Tower. She alleged in some of these filings as well that his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million, when it should have been closer to $75 million.
James also claimed that Trump inflated the value of other properties and unsold memberships at his golf clubs. The formal complaint includes examples from 23 assets, but James said they found more than 200 examples on his filings over the year.
So where does this go next? The New York A.G. said she’s making a criminal referral to the IRS and Southern District of New York. Where does it go?
BARR: Well, for one thing, she brought this as a civil case. This is not a criminal case.
And I — to me, that says that she doesn’t have the evidence to make a criminal case. So she’s setting a lower bar and bringing this civil case. I don’t think it’s going to go any further. Now, it’s over 200 pages long with a lot of details about the valuation of properties.
But the fact of the matter is that real estate valuation of a complex real estate company like this is inherently very subjective. It depends what kinds of assumptions are used. Values can swing, depending on whether it’s viewed as a property that’s going to be split up or one that’s kept together and so forth. So it’s not an exact science.
And the fact is that banks, sophisticated banks, don’t rely on every jot and tittle in the financial statements. They do their own assessments. They make themselves comfortable. Sometimes, they automatically discount that kind of submission. And they didn’t — no one — the loans were paid back. These were successful investments.
And the banks were paid back. So, to have spent three years on this, seems to me, her trying to make good on a campaign promise that she was going to bring Trump down.