Trump Invokes Fifth Amendment, Attacking Legal System as Troubles Mount
Donald J. Trump has long derided public figures who invoke their constitutional right against self incrimination, but on Wednesday he took full advantage of the Fifth Amendment.
For hours under oath, Mr. Trump sat across from the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, responding to every question posed by her investigators by repeating the phrase “same answer” over and over again.
Mr. Trump’s refusal to respond substantively to any questions in the court-ordered deposition was an unexpected twist that could determine the course of Ms. James’s three-year civil investigation into whether the former president fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure loans and other benefits.
It was also an extraordinary moment in an extraordinary week, even by the former president’s standards.
Two days after his home was searched by the F.B.I. in an unrelated investigation, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right while openly questioning the legitimacy of the legal process — as he has with the nation’s electoral system — and insulting a law enforcement official sitting just a few feet away.
Mr. Trump’s only detailed comment, people with knowledge of the proceeding said, was an all-out attack on the attorney general and her inquiry, which he called a continuation of “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’” he said while reading from a prepared statement, which overlapped significantly with one he released to the public.
“I now know the answer to that question.” He said that he was being targeted by lawyers, prosecutors and the news media, and that left him with “absolutely no choice” but to do so.