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Trump did not respond to questions in his statement to the New York attorney general

Trump did not respond to questions in his statement to the New York attorney general

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer questions from the New York attorney general in a scheduled statement Wednesday.

“On the advice of my attorney and for all the reasons stated, I have declined to answer questions under the rights and privileges granted to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump testified in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James as part of a more than three-year civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities by providing them with misleading financial statements.

Trump said in a post on Truth Social early Wednesday that he would “meet” James as part of the biggest witch hunt in American history.

Trump was seen leaving Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday morning, shortly after his motorcade arrived at the New York Attorney General’s office.

The announcement comes during an unusual legislative week for the former president. This Monday, fbi A search warrant was executed at his primary residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in connection with an investigation into his handling of classified documents. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court denied his long-running bid to block the House committee from getting Tax return.

Some Trump advisers argued that he should answer questions since he previously testified under oath about the former president’s financial statements, while others warned him not to give any answers because of the legal risk he could face, people familiar with the matter told CNN. . The Manhattan district attorney has a separate criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.

With Trump expected to announce his 2024 presidential run, another debated issue is the political implications of not answering the questions. During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested not answering questions. Sign of Guilt At a campaign stop in Iowa in 2016, Trump said, “If you’re innocent, why do you accept the Fifth Amendment?”

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What does Trump face in the next few hours? 0:34

In his statement Wednesday, Trump said, “I know the answer to that question now,” and condemned the James investigation. The former president and the Trump Organization have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Trump’s testimony nears the end of a long-running New York state investigation into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax officials by providing misleading financial statements.

In January, James’ office said it had found “significant” evidence that the Trump Organization used false or misleading property valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax benefits. The Attorney General’s civil investigation is nearing completion and a decision on enforcement action is likely to be made soon.

The former president and the Trump administration have previously denied wrongdoing and called the civil investigation of James, a Democrat, politically motivated. Both James and Trump have traded public criticism.

The stance follows a failed attempt to block a subpoena for statements by Trump and his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

Ivanka Trump’s resignation took place last week and Trump Jr. stepped down in late July, people familiar with the matter said.

Trump Jr., along with his brother Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, failed to assert their Fifth Amendment rights to run the Trump Organization and respond to government questions, the people said. It is not clear what they specifically asked or what they said. His decision clashes with Eric Trump and former Trump Organization CFO Alan Weiselberg, who asserted their Fifth Amendment rights more than 500 times when they were fired in 2020.

Trump has testified under oath in civil cases in recent decades and has testified since leaving office. He gave videotaped testimony last year in a case involving an attack outside Trump Tower. The case is scheduled to go to trial this fall. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

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Trump net worth questions

Trump has been questioned about the accuracy of his net worth and financial statements in previous investigations, which some advisers say is a reason he has to answer questions in the current investigation.

In a 2007 filing in a defamation lawsuit, Trump once said he calculated his net worth partly based on his “feelings” and put a “better spin” on certain properties. I think “everybody” overestimates their property values, he testified: “Who doesn’t?”

Did you raise values? “Not beyond reason,” Trump said.

In the past, Trump has sought to place responsibility for his evaluation decisions on Weiselberg, while Trump has said he left those evaluation decisions to others, and documents and reports show that he was also deeply involved. Running your business.

In a 2007 statement, Trump said that Weiselberg was the only person he dealt with in the preparation of the financial statements.

Former President Donald Trump, late Friday, August 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis. (AP Photo/Morrie Cash)

“I’ll give my opinion,” Trump said in the statement. “We’ll talk about that,” he said, adding that “ultimately” and “mainly” it was Weiselberg who came up with the final values, which Trump said he considered “conservative.”

When asked specifically about the year-over-year changes in values, Trump had his explanations ready.

During the report, Trump was asked about the family compound in Westchester County, New York, called Seven Springs, which nearly doubled in value from $80 million in 2005 to $150 million in 2006.

“In my opinion, the property had a very low value, so it became very … it just went up,” Trump said.

He was asked if there was any basis for that opinion other than his own.

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“I don’t think so, no,” he said.

Learn why the FBI raided Trump’s home 3:14

In addition to Weiselberg, the Manhattan attorney general’s office and the district attorney interviewed two others involved in preparing the financial statements, Jeff McConey, the Trump Organization’s controller, and Donald Bender, the company’s outside accountant.

Trump’s lawyers may argue that the financial statements were not audited, so anyone relying on them would know. Financial statements reviewed by CNN show numerous disclosures that indicate they are not in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. Also, none of the lenders lost money on the transactions, making it much harder to claim they were defrauded or misled.

Baseline estimates for property values ​​were provided on several occasions by longtime Trump appraiser Cushman & Wakefield, who is under investigation. Cushman, who cut ties with Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill, has denied wrongdoing and is defending his job.

Legal risks for Trump

These statements present significant legal risks for the Trumps.

If James sues Trump and the case goes to trial, a jury could draw an “adverse inference” against him for not answering questions, which could lead to a higher verdict against him if he is found liable. Answering the questions opens the door to potential civil and criminal liability.

The criminal investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, has slowed but not stopped. Earlier this year, Bragg did not authorize prosecutors to present evidence to a state grand jury after raising concerns about the strength of the case, CNN reported. A special jury trial in the case ended in April, but a new one could be appointed in the near future.

“Anytime there’s a parallel civil and criminal investigation, if there’s evidence in that process, obviously we’ll look at it,” Bragg told CNN in April.