Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to answer questions from New York Attorney General Letitia James about his business dealings, explaining he was invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“I have absolutely no choice because the current administration and many prosecutors in this country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency,” Trump said in a statement published on his Truth social network. “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.”
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’” the twice-impeached former president acknowledged. “Now I know the answer to that question. 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.”
Noting the ex-president once said that “only guilty people and mobsters plead the Fifth,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) tweeted that “today he proved the point.”
Daniel Goldman, a leading attorney in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry and trial, tweeted bluntly that “you don’t take the Fifth if you didn’t do anything wrong.”
James said investigators found evidence that the Trump Organization lied to artificially inflate asset values to secure loans at favorable interest rates, while understating the values to get tax breaks. The Trump Organization denies any wrongdoing.
Trump’s Truth screed took aim at James, a Democrat whom he called a “renegade, out-of-control prosecutor” who is using the investigation “as a means of advancing her personal career.”
According to The New York Times, within minutes of arriving at the attorney general’s office, Trump’s team released three video clips attacking “Letitia James’ radical witch hunt.”
CNN reports Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.—who both worked for the family business and in the former president’s administration—sat for depositions with James last Wednesday, and that Donald Jr. did not invoke the Fifth Amendment.
The cable news channel explained: James’ office subpoenaed the Trumps late last year. They moved to block the subpoenas in court, arguing that they shouldn’t have to sit for depositions while there was a criminal investigation. The court rejected their arguments, saying a criminal investigation does not preclude a civil investigation from obtaining evidence. The former president was also held in contempt and fined $110,000 for failing to comply with a subpoena for documents. The judge lifted the contempt order in June. The criminal investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, has slowed but not stopped. Earlier this year, Bragg would not authorize prosecutors to present evidence before a state grand jury after raising concerns about the strength of the case.
Wednesday’s developments follow a Monday evening FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in Palm Beach, Florida, in an unrelated search for classified presidential documents. According to Trump, FBI agents “broke into” his safe. Since the legal search of his home, the former president has claimed without evidence that federal agents may have planted fake evidence in his safe.
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Brett Wilkins is staff writer for Common Dreams.