Former President Donald Trump arrived at the New York Attorney General’s office on Wednesday morning to give sworn testimony in a long-running civil investigation into his business dealings, specifically his representations to lenders and tax agencies about the value of his assets.
Trump denied wrongdoing, accused the US government of unfairly targeting him, and said he would refuse to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Trump appeared for the deposition two days after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home and beach club as part of a Justice Department investigation into missing records generated during his presidency and supposed to be catalogued with the National Archives.
FBI agents carrying out a court-authorized search warrant left Trump’s estate on Monday with about a dozen boxes. In January, the former president turned over about 15 boxes to the archives, some of which contained classified material.
According to people familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it, the Justice Department later became concerned that Trump or his aides had withheld some government items in January and were also not being truthful in their conversations about the material with US authorities.
In announcing the legal action at his Palm Beach, Fla., property, Trump chastised the Justice Department for seeking a search warrant, claiming that he had been cooperative with authorities and that no official action was required. The Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of documents such as memos, letters, emails, and other communications created during a presidential term.
Trump has been the subject of criminal and civil investigations into his business practices at the Trump Organization prior to his election to the presidency since 2019. The criminal investigation, led by the New York District Attorney’s Office, appears to have stalled. The civil investigation, however, is still ongoing and is being led by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).
Trump’s deposition, as well as testimony from his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., were postponed due to the death of their mother, Ivana Trump, on July 14.
According to a person familiar with the investigation, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., who both served as executives in the family business and worked in the White House, were deposed in recent days. This person stated that they answered questions.
According to public disclosures made by James, their brother Eric Trump, who was also a lieutenant in the company, invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when he sat for questioning in the same investigation in October 2020. The criminal investigation into Trump’s and the Trump Organization’s business practices was still ongoing at the time.
Trump continued his attacks on James’ investigation in an early Wednesday post on Trump’s social media service, Truth Social, calling the Black law enforcement official “racist” and saying he was seeing her “for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. History!”
If James, a Democrat, believes that the Trump Organization and its executives have violated the law, she may file a lawsuit against them.
Trump has repeatedly accused her of smearing him and his company in order to score political points, citing comments James made on the campaign trail promising to investigate Trump and the Trump Organization.
Trump’s lawyers have stated that the valuation practices that James is concerned about are standard in the real estate industry.
A parallel criminal investigation into those practices is still ongoing, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D). However, the two prosecutors in charge of the investigation resigned in protest earlier this year after learning that Bragg was opposed to moving forward with an indictment. Bragg subsequently appointed a member of his executive team to lead the effort.
The criminal case began under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), who did not seek reelection. Bragg was elected in January. So far, Trump’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, and the Trump Organization have been charged in connection with an alleged long-running tax avoidance scheme.