New York, Aug 10 (EFE).- Donald Trump declined to answer questions Wednesday during a deposition with the New York state Attorney General’s Office, which is conducting a civil investigation of the business practices of the former president.
“I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” the real estate mogul said in a statement issued shortly after the deposition began.
Despite Trump’s decision to invoke his constitutional Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, the prosecutors were expected to continue asking questions.
He had resisted the subpoena from Letitia James, but the courts sided with the state attorney general and ordered Trump and his three adult children to sit down for depositions.
Trump arrived at the Manhattan bureau of the state AG Office early Wednesday, less than 48 hours after the FBI searched his Florida residence as part of a separate federal probe to determine whether he unlawfully removed official documents from the White House at the end of his term in January 2021.
James, who opened her investigation in 2019, suspects that the Trump Organization inflated the value of hotels, golf courses and other assets to secure loans while simultaneously understating those values to reduce tax liability.
In his statement, the former president sought to justify his silence by accusing the state attorney general of engaging in a vendetta against him.
After noting that he used to wonder why innocent people would take the Fifth Amendment, Trump wrote: “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.”
He said that any lingering doubt about remaining silent during the deposition was dispelled by the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
While the state investigation is civil, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been weighing criminal charges against Trump in connection with the same alleged conduct.
Though that probe appeared to have stalled, information emerging from Wednesday’s deposition could have the potential to revive the case.
The Manhattan DA has already brought criminal tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization and one of its executives, Allen Weisselberg, though defense lawyers will be in court on Friday asking for those charges to be dismissed.
Trump took time Wednesday to suggest that the FBI personnel who searched Mar-a-Lago might have planted evidence to incriminate him.
“Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting,'” he wrote in a post on Truth Social, the social media platform he launched in October 2021.
One of Trump’s attorneys, Lindsey Halligan, was present during the search and watched the FBI leave with between 10 and 15 boxes of documents.
Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have disclosed the reason for the search, while Trump has not made public the warrant the agents presented when they arrived at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump accused his successor, Joe Biden, of having ordered the search, but the White House insisted that the president had no advance notice of the FBI raid. EFE mvs-syr/dr