NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump invoked the fifth amendment and would not answer questions under oath from the New York Attorney General long-term civil investigation in his business dealings, the former president said in a statement Wednesday.
Trump arrived at the offices of State Attorney General Letitia James in a motorcade shortly before 9 a.m., before announcing more than an hour later that he “refused to answer questions about the rights and privileges granted to every citizen under the Constitution of the United States”.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” the statement read. “When your family, your business and everyone in your orbit became the targets of a politically unfounded witch hunt backed by lawyers, prosecutors and the fake media, you have no choice.”
As vocal as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say the same strategy could have backfired in a depositional setting, as anything he says could potentially be used in the parallel criminal investigation being conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney. .
Messages seeking comment were left in James’ office.
Wednesday’s events unfolded as a flurry of legal activity surrounded the former president – days before, FBI agents searched his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an independent federal investigation into whether he took classified files when he left the White House.
The civil investigation, led by State Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misjudged the value of valuable assets like golf courses and skyscrapers. sky, deceptive lenders and tax authorities.
“My great company, and I, are under attack from all sides,” Trump wrote beforehand on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded. “Banana Republic!”
In May, James’ office said it was nearing the end of its investigation and investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could warrant legal action against Trump, his company, or both. The Republican’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that is not given in court — was one of the few missing exhibits, the attorney general’s office said.
Former President Donald Trump will be questioned under oath on Wednesday as part of the New York Attorney General’s long-running civil investigation into his real estate mogul dealings, he confirmed in a post on his Truth Social account.
Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, have testified in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. Individuals were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity. It is unclear whether they invoked the Fifth Amendment during their depositions. When their brother Eric Trump sat for a deposition in the same investigation in 2020, he invoked the Fifth more than 500 times, according to court documents.
The testimony of the three Trumps was originally scheduled for last month but was delayed after July 14 former president’s ex-wife Ivana Trump dies Ivanka’s mother, Donald Jr. and Eric.
On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will appear in court to ask dismissal of tax evasion charges against them last year into the Manhattan District Attorney’s parallel criminal investigation — spurred by evidence uncovered by James’ office. Weisselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.
James, a Democrat, said in court papers that her office uncovered “significant” evidence that Trump’s company “used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions”.
James alleges the Trump Organization overstated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misrepresented what the land was worth to reduce its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and magazines to justify Trump’s place among the countries of the world. billionaires.
The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size – a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.
Trump has denied the allegations, saying seeking the best appraisals is standard practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is politically motivated and that his office is “doing everything in its corrupt discretion to interfere with my business dealings and with the political process.” He also accused James, who is black, of racism in pursuing the investigation.
“THERE IS NO CASE!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had a “clear right” to question Trump and other directors of his company.
Once his investigation is complete, James may decide to take legal action and seek financial sanctions against Trump or his company, or even a ban on involvement in certain types of businesses.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has long been pursuing its parallel criminal investigation. No former president has even been charged with a crime.
In fighting to block the subpoenas, the Trumps’ lawyers argued that New York authorities were using the civil investigation to obtain information for the criminal investigation and that the depositions were a ploy to avoid calling them before a court. criminal grand jury, where state law requires that they be given immunity.
That criminal investigation appeared to be progressing toward an eventual indictment of Trump himself, but slowed after a new prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, took office in January: a grand jury that had heard evidence was disbanded. The chief prosecutor handling the investigation resigned after Bragg raised internal questions about the viability of the case.
Bragg said his investigation is continuing, which may be behind Trump’s decision to decline to answer James’s investigators’ questions during deposition at a Manhattan office tower that doubled as the conglomerate’s headquarters. fictional Waystar Royco — led by a character inspired in part by Trump — on HBO’s “Succession.”
Balsamo and Sisak reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak
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