As part of the long-running civil investigation conducted by the New York attorney general into his business dealings, Donald Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions under oath, the former president said in a statement. “My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides,” Trump published on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded. The only question Trump answered was his name. He, then quoted Fifth on all the other questions he was asked at the deposition, his lawyer Ronald Fischetti reported. Nonetheless, back in 2016, Trump has been suggesting that people who are citing the Fifth Amendment when they are questioned are guilty of something.
In the minutes following his arrival at James’ lower Manhattan offices for the court-ordered interview under oath, an email from Trump announced he wouldn’t answer any questions because of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In a statement, Trump also called James’ investigation a “witch hunt of historic proportions” and also accused the Democratic attorney general of “openly campaigning on a policy to destroy me,” Fischetti stated.
Trump’s decision is coming just days after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal investigation to see if he took classified files as he left the White House. Letitia James is leading the civil investigation involving allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, miscalculated the value of valuable assets like golf courses and skyscrapers, and deceived lenders.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” Trump was quoted in the statement emailed after he arrived at the deposition as saying James was a rogue prosecutor with a personal vendetta against him and his company, reported NPR.
“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” Trump stated. “Accordingly, under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” he added. The refusal of Trump to answer questions was a legal thing and was expected in the court order requiring his attendance at the deposition. But, there are chances it may hurt his chances of succeeding against James in any civil litigation she brings in connection with her investigation.
In their fight to block the subpoenas, Trump lawyers argued that the civil investigation was being used by the New York authorities to get more information for the criminal investigation. While the depositions were meant to avoid them being called before a criminal grand jury, which requires them to be given immunity under state law. While being questioned by James’ lawyers in separate depositions in 2020, both Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment on more than 500 occasions, according to court documents.