Just hours after calling her a “racist” leading a “witch hunt” in the style of a “banana republic,” former President Donald Trump came face-to-face with New York Attorney General Letitia James at her lower Manhattan office on Wednesday, where he spent all day dodging her team’s questions and refusing to play ball.
The AG’s office confirmed James was present in the room with the former president at the deposition, which lasted more than five hours including breaks. An office spokesperson, Delaney Kempner, declined to comment on any details.
“It went well,” Alina Habba, one of the defense attorneys at Trump’s side during the interview, told The Daily Beast.
Trump—a staunch critic of people who stay quiet and plead the Fifth—refused to shed any light on questions asked by New York state investigators and cited those very same privileges. Earlier in the day, he had assured he’d do just that.
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” Trump’s account posted on his own social media network, Truth Social.
“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,” he added. “Accordingly, under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”
Trump was referring to the many times he has questioned why any innocent person would ever refuse to answer questions from law enforcement, including his assertion while campaigning for president in 2016 that “the mob takes the Fifth.”
While he was at 28 Liberty Street—which is just across the street from one of the Trump skyscrapers her office is investigating—the former president sneered online.
“At the very plush, beautiful, and expensive A.G.’s office. Nice working conditions, as people are being murdered all over New York - and she spends her time and effort on trying to ‘get Trump,’” he wrote.
Trump on Wednesday faced questions from lawyers at the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which has been investigating the Trump Organization for more than three years on suspicion of bank and insurance fraud.
The company has consistently stonewalled the civil probe, refusing to turn over documents or make its executives available for depositions. It wasn’t until the former president’s son Eric Trump resisted a sit-down with investigators that the office was forced to make the case public by seeking a judge’s order compelling him to show up. When he finally did, he cited his Fifth Amendment right against criminal self-incrimination more than 500 times.
Since then, the case has become a one-stop shop for evidence of the Trump family company’s financial shenanigans. The New York AG has laid out, in explicit detail, how the company has routinely inflated the estimated values of its many properties—in some cases, simply multiplying the existing physical space and claiming areas that don’t even exist.
“The Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits,” James wrote in a tweet in January.
Trump and two of his other adult kids, Don Jr. and Ivanka, were subpoenaed by her office in December and ordered to show up for depositions under oath in January. But the trio ghosted investigators and refused to turn over requested documents.
Justice Arthur F. Engoron, the local judge overseeing the case, punished Trump with $110,000 in fines for his insolence. And the trio lost their legal fight on appeal.
As a result, all three were ordered to show up and testify this summer. Their previously scheduled depositions were pushed back when Ivana Trump—the marketing mogul’s ex-wife and the children’s mother—was found dead at her Manhattan home in July.
In their testimony behind closed doors, the trio don’t have to explain how or why they came up with the financial estimates they did—or how they personally benefited from allegedly fudging the numbers. But in court, the AG’s office has insisted the paperwork speaks for itself. Maximizing the value of buildings and estates allowed the Trumps to acquire bank loans on more favorable terms, which could be construed as bank fraud. And inflating the value of a forested estate that was officially recommissioned as a protected nature conservation also boosted the size of a $21.1 million tax deduction in 2015, which could be interpreted as tax fraud.
In his public statement on Wednesday morning, Trump claimed that the historic FBI raid of his South Florida mansion earlier this week was part of an overarching attempt to nail him all at once.
“If there was any question in my mind, the raid of my home, Mar-a-Lago, on Monday by the FBI, just two days prior to this deposition, wiped out any uncertainty,” his account posted on Truth Social.
Federal agents searched Trump’s oceanside manor in Palm Beach looking for classified documents the former president was not supposed to have taken. Although the feds picked up 15 boxes of material earlier this year, it appears that Trump may have kept additional documents—which would be a violation of the Presidential Records Act. If he’s found guilty of breaking that law, he could be barred from ever running for political office again.
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