Trump says he took Fifth Amendment in business probe

Politics

(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump says he invoked the Fifth Amendment and wouldn’t answer questions under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-standing investigation into his real estate dealings.

The New York civil investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and launched more than three years ago, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of prized assets like golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities to get illegal tax breaks and bank loans.

Trump arrived at James’ offices early Wednesday morning, but sent out a statement more than an hour later saying he “declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”

The Fifth Amendment protects people from being compelled to be witnesses against themselves in a criminal case.

Anything he said during the deposition could have been used against him in a criminal case. While James’ investigation is civil in nature, the Manhattan district attorney is running a parallel criminal probe.

James alleges the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the world’s billionaires.

The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.

Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships and with the political process.”

The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, testified in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

The Trumps’ testimony had initially been planned for last month but was delayed after the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of Ivanka, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, sat for a deposition in James’ investigation in 2020.

Once her investigation wraps up, James could decide to bring a lawsuit and seek financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses.

Trump’s testimony is happening at a critical point in James’ investigation, midway through a volatile week for the former president.

The questioning is coming on the heels of the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in connection to a different investigation into whether or not Trump mishandled presidential records. The Department of Justice has been investigating the discovery of boxes of White House records, some of them classified, that were taken to Mar-a-Lago after Trump left office. A source close to the investigation told NewsNation they left with “dozens” of boxes.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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