Donald Trump refuses to answer questions in New York inquiry into family’s business practices

Former president chooses right to avoid self-incrimination and criticises ‘witch hunt’ by lawyers, prosecutors and media

Donald Trump refused to answer questions at a deposition in a New York state investigation into his businesses on Wednesday, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination amid deepening legal woes.

Mr Trump said in a statement that the “current administration and many prosecutors across the country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency”, leaving him with “no choice” but silence. The former US president’s comments followed a search of his Mar-a-Lago property in South Florida by FBI agents on Monday as part of a separate investigation.

“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,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump’s refusal to answer questions under oath represents a major U-turn for the former president, who once said only guilty members of the “mob” would claim their right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment of the US constitution.


But it comes as the former president and many of his Republican followers have adopted an increasingly defiant stance, attacking US judicial and government institutions when confronted with multiple legal investigations by federal and state authorities as he weighs a new bid for the presidency in 2024.

In his statement, the former president said: “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question. 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.”

Mr Trump had been resisting providing testimony in the civil case being brought by Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, but had finally agreed to be deposed on Wednesday. The investigation relates to allegations that Mr Trump provided “fraudulent and misleading financial statements”, including inflated valuations of his properties.

The former president’s decision comes as a legal and political firestorm has enveloped him in the wake of Monday’s FBI raid, which was related to a separate federal investigation into his handling of classified records from his time at the White House that were found at Mar-a-Lago.

The US justice department and the FBI have so far failed to explain the rationale behind the search, the first in US history at the home of a former president. However, the move would have to have been approved by a federal judge on the basis of “probable cause” that a crime was being committed at the site of the search.

Mr Trump and his lawyers have strongly criticised the search as unnecessary, but they have not publicly released the warrant that would include additional details in the case.

Since the FBI raid, many Republicans have rushed to Mr Trump’s defence and criticised US law enforcement agencies for executing a political vendetta and failing to provide any explanation for the unprecedented search, even though it is standard practice not to comment on ongoing investigations.

A group of House of Representatives Republicans met with Mr Trump on Tuesday night at his golf club in New Jersey to express their support and encourage him to plough ahead with a 2024 bid. “He is not deterred. He’s not fazed at all by what the [Department of Justice] has done to him,” Jim Banks, the Indiana Republican, told Fox News.

“House Republicans are unified more than ever before to fight alongside President Trump to save this country... And the sooner he gets out and starts campaigning, the better he helps Republicans in the midterm elections,” he added. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022