A video released on Tuesday shows former president Donald Trump invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination hundreds of times during an August 2022 deposition with the New York state Attorney General Letitia James.
Trump was questioned about his finances as part of a civil fraud investigation into his business practices. The state of New York is suing Trump for US$250 million for allegedly falsely inflating “his net worth by billions of dollars to further enrich himself and cheat the system” and manipulating “the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization.”
During the deposition, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 400 times.
In a seven-minute opening statement, Trump said New York’s fraud investigation was “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
“Anyone in my position not taking the Fifth Amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool,” he said.
“The United States Constitution exists for this very purpose,” Trump continued. “And I would utilize it to the fullest extent and defend myself against this malicious attack by this administration, this attorney general’s office, and all other attacks on my family, my business and our country.”
In response to a prosecutor’s question, Trump said, “For all other reasons provided in my answer, which is incorporated herein in its entirety, I decline to answer the question.”
As the questioning continued, Trump repeated this phrase twice more before opting to shorten to, “Same answer.” He would then repeat those two words hundreds of times during the hours-long deposition.
Last year in August, when the deposition took place, Trump announced that he had invoked the Fifth Amendment with respect to the New York fraud investigation. The statement was significant because of Trump’s own prior assertion that only guilty people plead the Fifth.
“You see the mob takes the Fifth,” he said in April 2018. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
In 2022, Trump said he changed his mind about the Fifth Amendment, stating, “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.”
The New York Attorney General’s Office launched its lawsuit against Trump, his business and his three eldest children in September 2022. It is seeking to permanently bar the Trumps from conducting business in New York and also to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization for at least five years.
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