Ex-president Donald Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination during his deposition with the New York Attorney General’s office on Wednesday. Ordered by a court to appear after losing his battle to squash the subpoena, the former President said that under the advice of counsel:
“I declined to answer questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”
Former NY prosecutor Tristan Snell, responsible for successfully prosecuting the Trump University fraud– a case that resulted in a $25 million settlement between the Univerity and former students – said the move will actually strengthen the AG’s case.
BREAKING: Trump pleads Fifth, refuses to answer NY AG questions about Trump Organization’s alleged tax and financial fraud.
This is a civil case — so the court can draw an inference of liability.
This is exactly what the AG was hoping to achieve. The case is now even stronger.
— Tristan Snell (@TristanSnell) August 10, 2022
I reached out to Snell for comment and am awaiting a reply.
In a statement released from “The Office of Donald J. Trump” explaining his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, the former president resorted to insults, calling New York Attorney General Letitia James an “out of control prosecutor” and “failed politician” and accusing the prosecutor of colluding “with others to carry out this phony years-long crusade.”
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) August 10, 2022
In 2019, James began the Attorney General’s office’s investigation into whether Trump and his company manipulated the financial valuations of his hotels and golf clubs to avoid tax liability. While it’s a civil probe, a parallel criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office for the same allegations is ongoing. New York District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg was skeptical about having enough to prosecute the failed businessman but has said he’s monitoring the investigation, per The New York Times.
In a twist of irony, Donald Trump has infamously mocked those who invoke the Fifth Amendment, telling a crowd of Council Bluffs, Iowa rally-goers, “You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment,” during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The former president walked back those comments on Wednesday:
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'” he said in the statement. “Now I know the answer to that question.”
He said that being targeted by lawyers, prosecutors and the news media had left him with “no choice.”
Trump is the subject of ongoing civil and criminal investigations at the state and federal levels, and a search warrant was recently executed at the President’s home as part of the Justice Department’s probe into whether Trump and his aides violated the Presidential Records Act.
As investigators at all levels ramp up their probes, his legal troubles seem to be far from over.
Original reporting by Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, and William K. Rashbaum at The New York Times.
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