Former President Donald Trump said in a statement Wednesday that he invoked the Fifth Amendment during his deposition under oath as part of the New York attorney general's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's finances.
In the lengthy statement, Trump blasted New York Attorney General Letitia James as politically motivated and alleged he "did nothing wrong."
"I once asked, 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?' Now I know the answer to that question," Trump wrote in announcing his decision to invoke his right against self-incrimination. "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."
NBC News reported Wednesday that the former president invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 440 times during his deposition. USA TODAY requested comment from the New York attorney general's office.
During a campaign stop in September 2016, Trump compared people who invoke the Fifth Amendment to mobsters: “The mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
His comments were aimed at former staffers for Hillary Clinton who invoked the Fifth Amendment during probes into Clinton's use of a private email server when she was U.S. secretary of state.
The attorney general's office confirmed that Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination, saying the investigation "continues."
"Attorney General James will pursue the facts and the law wherever they may lead," a spokesperson said.
James' investigation began after former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told federal lawmakers in 2019 that Trump regularly inflated the value of his properties and net worth to get better insurance and loan rates. Her office said in May that it was near the end of its probe and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said Trump’s decision has ramifications because James is conducting a civil investigation, not a criminal one.
“Trump was right to take the Fifth, but that decision has consequences,” Mariotti
said. “While his silence can’t be used against him in a criminal case, it can be used against him in the AG’s civil case. If he is sued, jurors may be instructed they should presume his answers would have hurt him.”
Last year, Trump said James "literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me."
Trump's Mar-a-Lago home was searched Monday by federal agents in an investigation into allegations he took classified records from the White House, a potentially serious violation of the law.
Contributing: David Jackson, Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump invoked 5th Amendment in NY probe targeting Trump Organization