- Video footage obtained by Insider shows Trump being deposed in the NY AG’s investigation into his business.
- Trump repeatedly invoked the 5th Amendment and declined to answer questions.
- Trump previously questioned why an innocent person would plead the 5th.
Former President Donald Trump repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment when he was deposed last summer as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into his business practices, according to footage obtained by Insider on Tuesday.
“This is the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump began in his seven-minute opening statement on August 10. “There has never been another president, or perhaps even another politician, who has been persecuted, harassed, and in every other way, unfairly treated like President Donald J. Trump.”
“Anyone in my position not taking the Fifth Amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool,” he said.
“The United States Constitution exists for this very purpose,” Trump said. “And I would utilize it to the fullest extent and defend myself against this malicious attack by this administration, this attorney general’s office, and all other attacks on my family, my business and our country.”
Trump concluded his remarks by saying he “respectfully” declined to answer questions as he sat under oath.
“For all other reasons provided in my answer, which is incorporated herein in its entirety, I decline to answer the question,” the former president said as questioning began, a phrase he repeated twice more before transitioning to the shorter response: “Same answer.”
Trump said “same answer” over and over again as he was pressed about the Trump Organization’s business dealings, asked about its top executives, and presented with financial documents.
At times, Trump appeared tired of the deposition, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. He announced last year that he had invoked the 5th Amendment in James’ investigation. The August statement was particularly noteworthy given Trump’s previous suggestion that only guilty people invoke the constitutional right against self-incrimination.
“You see the mob takes the Fifth,” he said in April 2018. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Trump addressed his change of heart about invoking the 5th Amendment in his statement last August.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'” he said. “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.”
James’ investigation into the Trump Organization culminated in a massive fraud lawsuit in September against the former president, his three eldest children, and his business.
James is seeking to permanently bar the Trumps from conducting business in New York and pursuing $250 million in penalties. The state attorney general’s office is also seeking the appointment of an independent monitor to “oversee compliance, financial reporting, valuations, and disclosures to lenders, insurers, and tax authorities at the Trump Organization” for at least five years.
James said Trump “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to further enrich himself and cheat the system” and “repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization.”
“Claiming to have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal,” James said, referencing the title of Trump’s 1987 memoir and business-advice book. “It’s the art of the steal.”