'That decision has consequences': Experts respond to Trump pleading the 5th
Former President Donald Trump (Agence France-Presse).

Legal experts are questioning Donald Trump’s claim that he's helped his case by pleading the Fifth when giving a sworn deposition to lawyers from the Office of the New York Attorney General. At least one lawyer says Attorney General Letitia James’ case against the former president is now “immeasurably stronger.”

Trump infamously derided others over the years for invoking their Fifth amendment right to silence, saying people only invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if they’re guilty.

In a lengthy statement after his testimony Wednesday, Trump said, “under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”


“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” he added. “When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become targets of unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”

Legal experts demurred.

Trump critic and attorney George Conway asserted that Attorney General Letitia James’ “case against Trump became immeasurably stronger today.”

"In any civil case that AG James may bring against Trump, the finder of fact is free to draw adverse inferences from his invocation of the Fifth Amendment’s protections," Conway added.

“Trump was right to take the Fifth, but that decision has consequences," remarked former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "While his silence can’t be used against him in a criminal case, it can be used against him in the AG’s civil case.”

“If he is sued,” Mariotti added, “jurors may be instructed [that] they should presume his answers would have hurt him.”

Attorney Tristan Snell, who successfully prosecuted a case against the Trump University for the New York Attorney’s Office, offered additional insight.

“Trump pleads Fifth, refuses to answer NY AG questions about Trump Organization’s alleged tax and financial fraud," Snell tweeted. "This is a civil case — so the court can draw an inference of liability. This is exactly what the AG was hoping to achieve. The case is now even stronger.”

Snell also posited that “Don Jr. and Ivanka did not plead the Fifth, likely because their involvement with the fraud was minimal. Donald Trump pled the Fifth, because he was almost certainly running the fraud.”

Historian Garrett Graff, former editor of Politico magazine added, “I recognize it’s the important right of any American to take the Fifth, but it’s worth noting how Hillary Clinton sat through 11 hours of public Benghazi testimony and sat with the FBI for 3.5 hours amid her emails—and when Trump faces questions, he takes the Fifth.”

With David Badash.