Donald Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about alleged fraud at his business empire, despite previously claiming the maneuver was itself evidence of crime.
Pressure is mounting on Mr Trump, who was ousted yesterday two days after an unprecedented raid on his Florida home in a fraud investigation into his family business.
The former US president has previously ridiculed the use of the Fifth Amendment, which allows individuals to remain silent during questioning to protect themselves from self-incrimination. He once observed at a campaign rally that “the mob” was taking the Fifth Amendment and asked, “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
In a statement following his testimony before the New York Attorney General’s Office yesterday, he said, “Now I know the answer.”
Mr. Trump, 76, refused to answer sworn questions as part of a civil investigation into allegations that the Trump Organization misreported the value of its hotels, golf clubs and other assets to mislead lenders or tax authorities.
He said he had “no choice” but to decline the answer, describing himself as a victim of a “politically motivated witch hunt”.
Mr. Trump’s decision to protect himself from self-incrimination surprised many and could adversely affect a potential lawsuit, since civil juries can reach negative conclusions when a defendant invokes the Fifth Amendment.
But legal experts said any misstep in Mr Trump’s testimony could have posed a greater threat to a parallel criminal investigation by Manhattan prosecutors.
Mr Trump based his decision on the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home, the first raid on an ex-president’s home in US history.
“I have absolutely no choice [to invoke the Fifth Amendment] because the current government and many prosecutors in this country have lost all moral and ethical boundaries of decency,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Trump suggested FBI agents could have planted evidence when they searched his 124-room private club, revealing his lawyers were not allowed to observe the search.
“The FBI and others in the federal government did not allow anyone, including my attorneys, near the areas that were ransacked and otherwise investigated during the Mar-a-Lago raid,” he said.
“Everyone has been asked to leave the premises, wanting to be left alone with no witnesses to see what they are doing, taking or hopefully not ‘planting’.”
The search marked an unexpected escalation of a Justice Department investigation into documents, including classified information, that Mr Trump may have taken to his Mar-a-Lago estate when he left office.
Several boxes were said to have been removed from the property Monday night, including letters from Barack Obama, Kim Jong-un and other correspondence with world leaders.
A source claimed that every room in the mansion was searched, including Mr Trump’s master bedroom and his wife Melania’s dressing room.
Another group of agents combed Trump’s office and broke into a safe.
Mr Trump has indicated the probes will encourage him to announce a much-anticipated White House offer “sooner rather than later”.
Republicans had urged Mr Trump to wait until after the November midterm elections to announce his candidacy, fearing an announcement could endanger candidates in swing districts.
But many now believe the FBI search could rouse voters who believe Mr Trump is being politically attacked and potentially offer legal protection to the Republican leader.
Mr. Trump yesterday told Republican congressmen that he had “decided” about his long-harried run and “enjoyed the encouragement” from them to “announce the decision sooner rather than later,” revealed Congressman Jim Banks.
The raid has sparked frantic speculation about a potential whistleblower in Mr Trump’s inner circle.
(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/trump-refuses-to-answer-questions-under-oath-about-fraud-allegations-41903970.html Trump does not want to answer questions about allegations of fraud under oath