Former President Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Wednesday during a deposition before lawyers from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office in its investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices.
The deposition lasted four hours and the only question the former president answered was about his name, Trump’s lawyer Ron Fischetti told NBC News.
A source with knowledge of the filing said Trump took the fifth more than 440 times.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'” Trump said in a statement. “Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company, and everyone in your orbit have become the targets of a baseless, politically motivated witch hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the fake news media, you have NO CHOICE. Therefore, under the advice of my attorney and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions based on the rights and privileges granted to every citizen under the Constitution of the United States.”
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office later confirmed that Trump had invoked the Fifth Amendment, but did not specify how many times.
“While we will not comment on specific details, we can confirm that today our office conducted a deposition of former President Donald Trump,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “General Prosecutor Letitia James participated in the deposition during which Mr. invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”
Fischetti, who attended the deposition along with fellow Trump lawyer Alina Habba, said Kevin Wallace of the New York Attorney General’s Office conducted all the questioning and that James was there for about two hours.
James’ office is considering whether to file a civil suit against Trump and his company and has said in court filings that it has “discovered substantial evidence establishing multiple misrepresentations” in Trump’s financial statements to banks, insurers and the IRS.
The financial statements were inflated by hundreds of millions of dollars and were signed by the former president, James claimed.
Trump was asked Wednesday about the valuations of various items and golf clubs, signing documents, mortgages, loans and the size of his apartment, Fischetti said, noting that he received fifths on all of those questions.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the investigation and has maintained that the probe by James, a Democrat, is politically motivated.
According to Fischetti, the former president on Wednesday also read a statement in which he called the investigation “the biggest witch hunt in the history of our country” and accused James of “openly campaigning for a policy of my destruction.”
Much of Fischetti’s account was previously reported by The New York Times.
In an earlier statement on his social media platform, Trump said he was in New York City and would see the attorney general “for a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in US history! My great company and me, we’re being attacked from all sides. Banana Republic!”
Trump later described the deposition as “a very professional meeting.”
Trump’s two eldest children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, recently testified in the civil investigation. NBC News reported that Trump Jr. was interviewed several weeks ago and Ivanka spoke to investigators last week. Neither of them invoked Fifth Amendment protection. Sources did not confirm whether their testimony took place in person or virtually.
Earlier this week, Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm that appraised several Trump Organization properties, turned over nearly 36,000 documents to the attorney general.
“Attorney General James will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead. Our investigation continues,” the spokeswoman for her office said on Wednesday.
Trump’s appearance at the attorney general’s office follows an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, with a source familiar with the matter saying the search was related to classified information that former the president allegedly took with him from the White House to his Palm Beach resort in January 2021.
Zoë Richards CONTRIBUTORS.