Donald Trump Claims Fifth Amendment Rights, Refuses to Answer NY Attorney General’s Questions

“Under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I have declined to answer questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump was to be impeached by prosecutors from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office as part of a more than three-year civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization misled creditors, insurers and tax authorities by providing misleading financial statements.

Trump said in a post on Truth Social Wednesday morning that he “looks” to James for the continuation of the “biggest witch hunt in American history.”

Trump was seen leaving Trump Tower in New York City on Wednesday morning, shortly after his motorcade arrived at the New York Attorney General’s office.

The scheduled vote comes during an unusual legislative week for the former president. On Monday, the F.B.I A search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, his primary residence in Florida, in connection with an investigation into his handling of classified documents. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court Denied his long-term efforts To prevent a House committee from getting his tax return.

Some Trump advisers have argued that the former president should answer questions since he testified under oath about his financial statements, while others have warned him not to provide any answers because of the legal risk he could face, people familiar with the matter told CNN. The Manhattan district attorney is conducting a separate criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.

Another point discussed was the political implications of Trump not answering questions, widely expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid. During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested not answering questions. guilty feeling. At a campaign stop in Iowa in 2016, Trump said, “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

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In his statement Wednesday, Trump said, “I know the answer to that question now,” and denied James’ questioning. The former president and the Trump Organization have previously denied any wrongdoing.

“When your family, your company and everyone in your orbit becomes the target of a baseless, politically motivated witch hunt backed by lawyers, prosecutors and the fake news media, you have no choice,” the former president said.

In January, James’ office said it had found “substantial” evidence that the Trump Organization used false or misleading property valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax benefits. The Attorney General’s civil investigation is nearing completion, and a decision on enforcement action could come soon.

The confrontation followed a failed attempt to withhold confessions from Trump and his children. Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

Ivanka Trump’s resignation took place last week and Trump Jr. stepped down in late July, people familiar with the matter said.

Trump Jr., along with his brother Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, did not assert their Fifth Amendment rights to run the Trump Organization and answered questions from The State, People. It is not clear what they specifically asked or what they said. Their decision broke with Eric Trump and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Alan Weiselberg, both of whom asserted their Fifth Amendment rights more than 500 times when they were fired in 2020.

Trump has testified under oath in civil cases over the past decades, and has been impeached since leaving office. He gave videotaped testimony last year in a case involving an attack outside Trump Tower. The case is pending trial. Trump He has denied any wrongdoing.

Questions about Trump’s net worth

Trump has been questioned in previous cases about the accuracy of his net worth and financial statements, and some advisers say why he should answer questions in the current investigation.

A 2007 deposit In a defamation lawsuit, Trump once said he calculated his net worth based on his “feelings” and put a “better spin” on certain properties. I think “everybody” overstates the value of their property, he testified: “Who doesn’t?”

Did he raise values? “Not beyond reason,” Trump said.

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Documents and depositions show Trump has tried in the past to shift responsibility for his assessment decisions to Weiselberg, while Trump said he left those assessment decisions to others, even as he was deeply involved in the running. His profession.

In a 2007 deposition, Trump said Weiselberg was the only person he handled in the preparation of financial statements.

“I’ll make my point,” Trump said in the deposition. “We’ll talk about that,” he said, adding that it was “ultimately” and “mainly” Weiselberg who came up with the final values, which Trump said he considered “conservative.”

When asked specifically about changes in values ​​from one year to the next, Trump had explanations ready.

During the deposition, Trump was questioned at the family compound known as Seven Springs in Westchester County, New York, which nearly doubled in value from $80 million in 2005 to $150 million in 2006 in a year.

“Property is so undervalued, in my opinion, it’s become so — it’s gone up,” Trump said.

He was asked if there was any basis for that opinion, other than his own.

“I don’t believe so, no,” he said.

In addition to Weiselberg, two others involved in preparing the financial statements, Jeff McConey, a Trump Organization controller, and Donald Bender, an outside accountant for a real estate firm, have both been interviewed by the attorney general’s office and the Manhattan district attorney.

Trump’s lawyers could argue that the financial statements were not audited, so anyone relying on them would be watched. Financial statements reviewed by CNN show several disclosures that indicate they are not in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. Additionally, none of the lenders lost money on the transactions, making it difficult to accuse them of being defrauded or misled.

Appraisals based on property values ​​in many cases provided by Trump’s longtime appraiser, Cushman & Wakefield Also under investigation. Cushman, who severed ties with Trump after the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, has denied any wrongdoing and stands by his job.

Legal risks for Trump

The depositions pose significant legal risks for the Trumps.

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If James sues Trump and the case goes to trial, a jury could draw an “adverse inference” against him for not answering questions, which could lead to a higher verdict against him if he is found liable. If he answers the questions, it opens the door to potential civil and criminal liability.

Rudy Giuliani ordered to appear before Georgia grand jury next week after 2020 election

The criminal investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, has slowed but not stopped. Earlier this year, Bragg would not authorize attorneys to present testimony before a state grand jury after raising concerns about the strength of the case, CNN reported. A special jury trial in the case expired in April, but a new one could be empaneled in the future.

Bragg said on CNN Interview in April: “Whenever you have a parallel civil, criminal trial, if there’s evidence in that proceeding, obviously we’ll look at it.”

This story has been updated with additional updates.

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