During a deposition on Wednesday with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.
In a public statement, Trump criticized James as a “failed politician” and accused her of having conspired with others in her probe of the Trump Organization. He called the investigation a political fishing expedition against him and his family.
Trump stated that he once asked if you are innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? He claims he now knows the answer to that question. When your family, your company, and everyone in your orbit has been targeted by an unfounded, politically motivated “Witch Hunt”, backed by lawyers, prosecutors, and the fake news media, you have no choice, according to Trump.
The statement issued by Trump continued that if there was any question in his mind, the raid of his home, Mar-a-Lago, on Monday by the FBI, just two days before this deposition, wiped out any uncertainty. He said he has absolutely no choice because the current Administration and many prosecutors in this Country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency.
Due to all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges granted to every US citizen under the Constitution, Trump said.
James is wrapping up a three-year investigation into a decade-long pattern of financial wrongdoing at the Trump Organization, Trump’s multibillion-dollar conglomerate.
As a result of the investigation, James has indicated that her office will bring a lawsuit against Trump. If James’ office is successful in court, his business could see millions of dollars in fines and the possible dissolution of his company.
Previously, Trump indicated through his lawyers that he seriously considered invoking the Fifth Amendment during James’ broad investigation.
In taking this route, Trump would not incriminate himself during his sworn and taped testimony. This is particularly important given that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is still investigating his businesses, despite stalling.
However, Trump’s Fifth Amendment pleading has some downsides.
Trump’s taped deposition, in which he repeatedly pleads the Fifth, would be played in open court if James’ eventual lawsuit against Trump lands before a jury. The Judge would then instruct jurors to draw what’s called an “adverse inference” from the tape under New York law. Therefore, unlike in a criminal trial, a jury could consider Trump’s refusal to answer questions as evidence of guilt.
A failed attempt by the Trump family to invalidate subpoenas for James’ office testimony led to Wednesday’s highly anticipated deposition. Earlier this week, Trump’s eldest two children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka were deposed, and Trump was seen arriving at James’ office on Wednesday.
It wasn’t the first time Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. During his bitter divorce proceedings with his first wife Ivana, he pleaded the Fifth in response to questions about adultery.
During the 2016 election, Trump took a different stance. He suggested that Hillary Clinton’s staff had something to hide when they invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during a congressional investigation into her use of a private email server as Secretary of State, suggesting they had something to hide.
In September 2016, the mob took the Fifth; he asked if you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?