Donald Trump said he called for the Fifth Amendment and did not answer questions under oath in New York’s lengthy civil investigation into his business dealings.
The former president of the United States arrived at the offices of New York Attorney General Letitia James in a motorcade just before 9am on Wednesday.
More than an hour later he said he “refused to answer questions based on the rights and privileges granted to every citizen by the United States Constitution.”
Anything he said during the deposition could have been used against him in a criminal case.
Although Ms. James’s investigation is civil in nature, the Manhattan District Attorney is conducting a parallel criminal investigation.
The fifth amendment establishes the right of a person not to be “forced in any criminal case to testify against himself”.
In the most direct sense, this means that criminal defendants do not have to provide overwhelming evidence in their own cases.
But it has also come to apply in non-criminal contexts.
In a statement, Trump said, “I once asked, ‘If you are innocent, why are you accepting the Fifth Amendment?’
“Now I know the answer to this question.
“When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become the target of an unfounded and politically motivated witch hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors and fake news media, you have no choice.”
Because the FBI raided Trump’s estate
As loud as Trump has been defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say the same strategy could have failed in a deposition setting because anything he says could potentially be used in criminal investigations.
His decision comes a few days later FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, as part of an unrelated federal investigation to determine if he took confidential documents when he left the White House.
The civil investigation, led by Ms. James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, has misjudged the value of valuable assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.