Following extensive delays resulting from appeals and family tragedy, former President Donald Trump is scheduled to sit for a deposition in the New York attorney general’s investigation into whether he fraudulently inflated or deflated assets for tax benefits.
Trump confirmed his deposition in a post on his social media site, where he referred to Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is Black, as a “racist.” In the past, the former president used the same insult for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), who is also Black. Trump called his deposition date the “continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history!”
“My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides,” Trump posted. “Banana Republic!”
Neither the attorney general’s office nor Trump’s attorney Alina Habba immediately responded to Law&Crime’s emails requesting comment, but Trump has reportedly released a statement saying he would invoke the Fifth Amendment.
Trump indicates he invoked the Fifth Amendment w James: “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.”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 10, 2022
Trump, who once indicated innocent people don’t plead the Fifth, defends doing so while sitting with lawyers from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office. “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question.” pic.twitter.com/xdUck1GiED
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) August 10, 2022
The deposition date falls days after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, his primary residence after his presidency, on a court-authorized search warrant. The timing emphasizes Trump’s mounting legal woes from state and federal authorities. James’s investigation is civil in nature, but she has shared information in the past with Bragg, who is undertaking a criminal investigation.
Both the attorney general and district attorney’s investigations began in early 2019, after Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen told Congress that his former boss had been cooking the books of the Trump Organization. James’s probe has been exploring the company’s filings regarding several properties, including his 212-acre Westchester estate known as Seven Springs, Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, Trump Park Avenue, and 40 Wall Street. James said that the investigation uncovered so far that Trump inflated the size of his Trump Tower triplex by nearly three times, and the company valued rent stabilized units 66 times higher than an outside appraiser did.
In February, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered Trump and his adult children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to sit for deposition, finding that it would have been a “blatant dereliction of duty” if James did not investigate them. Eric Trump already had testified pursuant to a court order — and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 500 times. Though Engoron initially gave the Trumps a period of 21 days to comply with his order, the family’s unsuccessful appeals repeatedly delayed the deposition dates. Former President Trump’s first wife Ivana Trump then died shortly before the July deposition date, leading to weeks of further delays.
Now, civil and criminal investigations surround the former president and his allies. A separate investigation in Georgia has designated more than a dozen fake Trump electors as “targets,” meaning they may soon face charges. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) declined to disclose whether Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is also a “target,” the former mayor’s lawyer said in court on Tuesday.
In the federal realm, the execution of a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago — and Trump’s personal safe — shows that the Department of Justices persuaded a federal magistrate that there was probable cause that evidence for a crime could be located there.
Trump supporters have greeted this news in keeping with all investigations surrounding the former president: allegations of political motives.
After reports that the judge who signed off on the warrant in the Southern District of Florida was U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) attacked Reinhart as an “Obama donor judge.” Like all magistrate judges, Reinhart is not a presidential appointee, and his donations to both Democratic and Republican candidates long predated his tenure. Reinhart did indeed donate to Obama more than a decade ago in 2008, but he also donated to Republican candidate Jeb Bush in 2015, federal records show.
[Images via Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]