NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump answered questions for nearly seven hours Thursday during his second statement in a legal battle with New York Attorney General Letitia James over his company’s business practices. Which reinvests an earlier decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and remain silent.
The Republican has met all day with attorneys for the attorney general, who prosecuted Trump last year. His lawsuit claims that Trump and his family misled banks and business partners by giving them false information about his net worth and the value of assets such as hotels and golf courses.
Shortly after Trump entered the Manhattan building that houses James’ offices, his attorney, Alina Habba, said he was “not only willing but eager to testify.”
After the deposition ended, an attorney for Trump’s business, Christopher Kise, said the former president spent nearly seven hours “describing in great detail his extraordinary business success.”
“The transactions at the center of this case have been extremely profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities,” Kise said. “When the facts of this success, not politically engineered soundbites, come to light, everyone will scoff at the idea that a fraud took place.”
The lawsuit has no connection to the criminal charges brought against Trump by the Manhattan District Attorney, which led to his landmark indictment last week, the first for a former president.
James declined to answer a question about the statement at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday.
Trump previously met with James’ lawyers on August 10, but declined to answer all but a few procedural questions, citing his Fifth Amendment rights more than 400 times. At the time, James had yet to file his complaint and it was unclear whether questions about how Trump valued his business would become the basis of a criminal case.
“Anyone in my position who wouldn’t accept the Fifth Amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool,” he said in the statement, which was videotaped and later released to the public. Trump predicted that a “rogue” prosecutor would try to turn his answers into a criminal case, if he gave them.
“A statement or response that is so slightly off, so slightly, by accident, by mistake, as if it were a beautiful sunny day, when it was actually a bit cloudy, would be answered by police at a level that they have rarely seen in this country, because I lived it,” he said.
Circumstances have since changed. The criminal charges filed by the Manhattan District Attorney related to how the company internally accounted for payments to an attorney, Michael Cohen, for his work paying people not to go public with stories about extramarital sexual encounters that Trump said never happened.
James’ lawsuit centered on allegations that Trump repeatedly lied about his own wealth and overstated the value of his assets in financial statements.
In a social media post Thursday morning, Trump called the lawsuit “ridiculous, just like all the other election interference cases that have been filed against me.”
He raised his fist as he left his Trump Tower apartment in the morning and arrived in a motorcade at the attorney general’s office around 9:40 a.m. Both parties took a lunch break. Trump left in the motorcade just before 6:15 p.m. and did not stop to speak to reporters.
The lawsuit James filed is set to go to trial in October. Video recordings of Trump’s statements could potentially be released at trial, if the lawsuit is not settled.
Thursday’s statement was made privately.