Former U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday 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.
Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump had fought unsuccessfully to avoid appearing for testimony in state Attorney General Letitia James’s probe into whether the Trump Organization inflated real estate values to obtain favorable loans and understated asset values to get tax breaks.
“I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” Trump said in a statement issued roughly an hour after he arrived in a motorcade at the attorney general’s office in lower Manhattan for the deposition behind closed doors.
The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination. Trump’s decision not to answer questions still could 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 Trump has something to hide as he mulls another presidential run in 2024.
James has said her investigation has uncovered significant evidence that the Trump Organization, which manages hotels, golf courses and other real estate, gave banks and tax authorities misleading financial information to obtain benefits.
Trump left her office about six hours after arriving, suggesting he faced questioning for much of the day. In a social media post after the deposition, Trump called it a “very professional meeting,” while boasting about his company.