IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why Trump’s latest deposition in N.Y. civil fraud case hits different

The former president appeared for a deposition in New York AG Letitia James' case. Did he plead the Fifth hundreds of times again?


UPDATE (April 14, 2023, 7:49 a.m. ET): Former President Donald Trump testified for "nearly seven hours" on Thursday during a deposition in the New York attorney general's civil fraud case, his attorney said in a statement.

Donald Trump appeared for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud case on Thursday. If you’re thinking, Didn’t that already happen and he invoked the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times? You’re correct. But that was before the case was filed. As it heads toward a potential trial later this year, Trump is facing questions again in the civil suit.

Has he pleaded the Fifth like he did last year? One might assume so. But according to a statement from his lawyer, Trump is “not only willing but also eager to testify.” That wasn’t true last time, so we’ll have to see what has changed this time, if anything.

For a refresher on the AG's $250 million case, NBC News reported:

The lawsuit accused Trump of making efforts to inflate his personal net worth to attract favorable loan agreements and alleges more than 200 instances of fraud over 10 years.

James is seeking to permanently bar the Trump family from serving as officers of New York-based companies and prevent Trump and his company from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions in the state for five years. She is also seeking about $250 million in penalties.

I explained earlier this year that invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination can’t be used against you in a criminal case — but it can be in a civil case like the one Trump is being deposed in. Yet, if Trump was worried about incriminating himself last year, what’s changed?

When it comes to New York, one big thing has changed: He was recently indicted and arraigned on state charges of falsifying business records, stemming from the Stormy Daniels hush money payment ahead of the 2016 presidential election. (Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

However that state criminal case turns out, Trump could think he doesn't have to worry about additional criminal charges in that arena. But my MSNBC colleague Lisa Rubin pointed out that Trump might not be out of the woods on that score:

Therefore, if Trump doesn’t take the Fifth this time, he could be ditching that protection at risk of putting himself in more criminal jeopardy in New York state than he already is. Of course, regardless of criminal exposure, what testimony Trump has to offer that could help him in his civil case remains to be seen.