NEW YORK: Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to answer questions under oath in New York over alleged fraud at his family business, as legal pressures pile on the former president whose house was raided by the FBI just two days ago.
Trump said he had “no choice” but to invoke the fifth amendment — which allows individuals to remain silent under questioning to protect against self-incrimination — during a deposition at the New York attorney general’s office.
In a statement apparently issued after the deposition began, Trump said: “I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” adding he took the advice from his legal counsel.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” he continued.
“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 deposition follows an extraordinary Federal Bureau of Investigation search earlier this week on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, signaling an escalation of legal probes into the 45th president.
Trump took aim at the search in his statement on Wednesday, saying, “The current Administration and many prosecutors in this Country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency”. He arrived early on Wednesday in a convoy of cars guarded by the secret service at the offices of New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose investigation is one of several active probes into the brash billionaire’s business practices and other actions.
James suspects the Trump Organisation of fraudulently overstated the value of real estate properties when applying for bank loans, while understating them with tax authorities to pay less in taxes.
If James, a Democrat, finds any evidence of financial misconduct, she can sue the Trump Organisation for damages but cannot file criminal charges, as it is a civil investigation.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, meanwhile, is running a parallel probe into the Trump Organisation that does have the potential for criminal charges. That investigation could be a reason Trump’s legal team advised him to remain silent, as his deposition could energise the case.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022