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Trump Goes All Silent Treatment

Debra Saunders on

Former President Donald Trump has every right to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as he did Wednesday during a civil deposition conducted by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

James has been conducting a probe into the Trump Organization's financial reporting practices, including the possible inflation of asset values to obtain favorable loan terms and deflation of other assets to reduce taxes.

But there is no Fifth Amendment protection in the court of public opinion. Trump's critics and his base have a right to see the decision as an abdication of sorts. It's disconcerting to watch the tough-talking Trump opt for the silent treatment.

Trump's come a long way since 2016 when, as a candidate, he remarked, "You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"

(Be it noted, The New York Times reports, Trump invoked the Fifth during divorce proceedings with his first wife, Ivana. According to Wayne Barrett in his book, "Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth," Trump invoked the Fifth repeatedly, mostly in response to questions about other women.)

To Trump, taking the Fifth used to be treated as a sign of guilt.

 

Civil libertarians might counter that the right against self-incrimination protects citizens from a government that otherwise could compel them to speak against their interests in criminal court. It is, after all, not defendants' role to help the government prosecute them.

In criminal courts, jurors have a responsibility to respect a defendant's protection against self-incrimination. And while James is conducting a civil case, Trump's attorneys have to contend with the possibility that New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg could use information from the civil probe, if he chooses to pursue criminal charges.

That said, Trump hiding behind a Constitution for which he shows little regard, well, it's a bad look.

In a statement, Trump noted, "I once asked, 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?' Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice." No choice or no motivation?

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