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Trump refuses to answer questions in New York probe

 

Former US President Donald Trump has said he declined to answer questions as part of a New York investigation into his family’s business practices.

Trump appeared at the New York attorney general’s office on Wednesday, reports the BBC.

State officials accuse the Trump Organisation of misleading authorities about the value of its assets in order to get favourable loans and tax breaks.

Trump denies wrongdoing and has described the civil investigation as a witch-hunt.

An hour after he was pictured arriving at the Manhattan office where he was questioned under oath, Trump released a statement in which he criticised New York Attorney General Letitia James and the broader investigation.

“Years of work and tens of millions of dollars have been spent on this long simmering saga, and to no avail,” he said. “I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”

His deposition comes just days after the FBI executed an unprecedented search warrant at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, as part of a separate investigation that is reportedly linked to his handling of classified material.

While the attorney general’s investigation is a civil one, a parallel investigation is being carried out by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office which could result in criminal charges.

Legal analysts suggest Trump may have declined to answer questions on Wednesday because his answers could have been used against him in that criminal investigation. The former president invoked the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from being compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case.

Ms James’s office have said that the depositions – a legal term that means testimony not given in court – were among the last remaining investigative procedures left to be carried out.

Once the investigation concludes, the attorney general could then decide to bring a lawsuit seeking financial penalties against Trump or his company.

The attorney general had sought Trump’s deposition – and that of two of his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr – for more than six months while the family resisted subpoenas through the New York court system.

Lawyers for Trump had also attempted to sue Ms James in a bid to prevent her from questioning the former president and his children.

But in February, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that all three must all sit for depositions. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr were questioned earlier this month.

The judge said the investigation had uncovered “copious evidence of possible financial fraud” giving the attorney general a “clear right” to question under oath the former president and two of his children involved in the business.

Ms James hailed the judge’s decision as a victory, saying that “justice has prevailed”.

The investigation, which was first opened in 2019, seeks to prove that Trump and the Trump Organisation misrepresented the value of assets in order to obtain favourable loans and tax breaks. The alleged fraud is said to have taken place before Trump took office.

 

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