Donald Trump refuses to answer questions in New York investigation days after FBI raid on Florida home

In a social media post after the deposition, Mr Trump called it a "very professional meeting"

Published

Donald Trump has said he declined to answer questions during an appearance before New York state's attorney general in a civil investigation into his family's business practices, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Mr Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka had fought unsuccessfully to avoid appearing for testimony in state Attorney General Letitia James's probe into whether the Trump Organisation inflated real estate values to obtain favourable loans and understated asset values to get tax breaks.

Mr Trump said in a statement issued after he arrived at the attorney general's office for the deposition: "I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution."

The US Constitution's Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Mr Trump's decision not to answer questions could still carry consequences.

Should the investigation lead to a trial, jurors could take his silence into account.

Politically, it also could give adversaries ammunition about whether Mr Trump has something to hide as he mulls another presidential run in 2024.

Ms James said her investigation has uncovered significant evidence that the Trump Organisation, which manages hotels, golf courses and other real estate, gave banks and tax authorities misleading financial information to obtain benefits.

Mr Trump left his office about six hours after arriving, suggesting he faced questioning for much of the day.

In a social media post after the deposition, Mr Trump called it a "very professional meeting," while boasting about his company.

A spokesperson for the New York attorney general's office said in a statement that Ms James participated in the deposition and confirmed that Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

"Attorney General James will pursue the facts and the law wherever they may lead," the spokesperson added.

Mr Trump said he declined to answer questions during an appearance before New York state's attorney general
Mr Trump said he declined to answer questions during an appearance before New York state's attorney general

"Our investigation continues."

Mr Trump, a Republican, in his statement again denied wrongdoing and sought to portray the investigation by Ms James, a Democrat, as part of a years-long vendetta against him by her and others including the news media.

He also attempted to link Ms James's investigation to Monday's FBI search of his Florida home Mar-a-Lago, which represented an escalation of a federal probe into whether he illegally removed records from the White House as he left office in January 2021.

"I once asked, 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'" Mr Trump said. "Now I know the answer to that question."

Mr Trump added: "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."

In the statement, Mr Trump also made disparaging comments about Ms James and violent crime in New York state.

Mr Trump agreed in June to testify in the three-year-old investigation, but only after court decisions rejecting his argument that he should not have to do so because the probe was politically motivated.

His lawyers also argued that Mr Trump's words could be unfairly used against him in a related criminal probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in which James also is involved.

Two top prosecutors in that case resigned in March, with one saying Mr Bragg was sceptical of bringing charges against Mr Trump. A spokeswoman for Mr Bragg on Wednesday said the criminal probe continues.

It comes just days after Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was raided by FBI agents, who also broke into his safe.

Mr Trump’s son, Eric, acknowledged that the raid was part of an investigation into the 76-year-old's removal of official presidential records from the White House to his Florida resort.

The unprecedented search of a former President's home would mark a significant escalation into the records investigation, which is one of several probes Mr Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business.