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Donald Trump, his real-estate company and his three eldest children have filed an extraordinary, nose-thumbing response to the $250 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September, stating that "Trump Organization" is branding shorthand — not a legal entity — so it can't be sued.
"To the extent a response is required, Defendant specifically denies the definitions of "Trump Organization" and "Defendants," reads Donald Trump's response to the lawsuit, one of 16 answers filed late Thursday night.
"While the shorthand "Trump Organization" is utilized by Defendants for branding and business purposes, no entity as such exists for legal purposes," Donald Trump's response continues, using language that is repeated throughout his 300-page filing and throughout the similarly-lengthy 15 filings of his fellow defendants.
New York's lawsuit names Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, former company CFO Allen Weisselberg and its former payroll executive Jeffrey McConney. It also names 10 entities under the Trump Organization umbrella — including "The Trump Organization, Inc.", a registered corporation in New York since 1981.
But even the response filed Thursday by Trump Organization, Inc., repeatedly makes the same argument: "While the shorthand 'Trump Organization' is utilized by Defendants for branding purposes, no entity exists for legal purposes."
New York's lawsuit does not specifically sue anything called "Trump Organization."
The lawsuit does, however, repeatedly make general reference to the Trump Organization, doing so more than 300 times as a "collective" name for the former president's $3 billion real-estate and golf resort company — and it's on this that Trump and his fellow defendants stake their protest.
The attorney general's many references to the umbrella company in her lawsuit "improperly group Defendants together, without regard to the nature or discrete legal identity of each Defendant," Thursday night's filings repeatedly complain, "without regard to the nature or discrete identity of each Defendant."
The nearly 5,000 pages of answers were filed just before midnight New York time to meet a Thursday deadline for responding to James' sweeping lawsuit alleging the former president engaged in a decade-long pattern of lying about his worth by billions of dollars on financial documents.
James alleges that Trump routinely lied about his assets in order to win favorable terms — and save hundreds of millions of dollars — from bankers, insurers, and tax authorities.
Thursday night's batch of responses briefly address these claims, repeating such blanket denials as "Defendant has not engaged in repeated fraudulent or illegal acts or otherwise demonstrated persistent fraud or illegality in the carrying on, conducting or transacting of business."
The attorney general's lawsuit seeks to permanently ban Donald Trump, his three eldest children, and his real-estate and golf-resort company from doing business in New York, where the business is headquartered and where the bulk of his commercial properties are located.
Lawyers for Trump, his family and his business, including Alina Habba, who filed the 16 responses online, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Ivanka Trump, Reid Figel, declined to comment.
Trump has been expected to fight hard against the attorney general's aggressive attack on his Manhattan-based business empire.
The suit, after all, seeks to cripple the company and would bar the Trump family from selling, collecting rent, or even borrowing money in New York.
Soon after it was filed, former assistant attorney generals told Insider to expect Trump and his fellow defendants to argue James is out to get him, that no bank or other entity was harmed by the company, and that the defendants and the company relied on the expertise of others.
Thursday's responses do use these arguments — countering at one point that the attorney general has acted contrary to "ancient and customary norms" — along with some others.
The attorney general "lacks jurisdiction over Defendants to the extent that they are not or are no longer residents of New York," some of the responses say.
A trial has been set for October in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.