As the New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office continues its investigation into the Trump Organization’s allegedly fraudulent business practices, Donald Trump was scheduled yesterday to finally answer questions on the matter. That didn’t go well: The former president announced that he’d plead the Fifth Amendment, invoking his right against self-incrimination.
What we didn’t know is just how much the Republican would take the Fifth. NBC News reported:
The deposition lasted four hours, and the only question the former president answered was about his name, Trump attorney Ron Fischetti told NBC News. A source with knowledge of the deposition said Trump took the Fifth more than 440 times.
If you’re wondering why the Republican pleaded the Fifth several hundred times, it’s worth noting that there is no such thing as a blanket invocation of the right against self-incrimination. In other words, in this instance, the state attorney general’s office had a great many questions for Trump, who could not simply say a single time, “I’m not going to answer any of your questions.”
Instead, officials kept asking their prepared questions, waiting to see if Trump — not known for his self-discipline — felt compelled to actually answer at least one of them. Other than stating his name, he apparently clung to the Fifth Amendment like a life-preserver, invoking this constitutional right over and over again over the course of hours.
The result was politically embarrassing: Not only is Trump on record condemning those who plead the Fifth, he became the latest member of his inner circle to do so. Indeed, guys like John Eastman, Alex Jones, and Jeffrey Clark reportedly asserted their right roughly 100 times each.
Trump pleaded the Fifth more than those guys combined.
But the political embarrassment is only a small part of a larger problem. A New York Times report added yesterday, “Jurors in civil matters can draw a negative inference when a defendant invokes his or her Fifth Amendment privilege, unlike in criminal cases, where exercising the right against self-incrimination cannot be held against the defendant.”
In other words, if the state attorney general’s case proceeds, the fact that Trump pleaded the Fifth could be used against him in the civil case — making yesterday’s developments more than just a story about hypocrisy.