Trump provides a learning moment about ‘taking the Fifth’
Donald Trump released a statement regarding the fact that he was scheduled to appear for a deposition before New York attorney general Letitia James, who is suing Trump's businesses on the Beria-like theory that she can find some crime to connect to Trump. In his statement, Trump described James's pathological obsession with destroying him. He concluded by explaining that he was, in the vernacular, "taking the Fifth." That statement was met with the usual "that means he's guilty," but, in fact, Trump's plight perfectly demonstrates why the Fifth exists.
The Fifth Amendment states in relevant part that "no person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself ..."
The purpose of the amendment is to prevent the government from persecuting people into confessing crimes, whether real or imaginary. In an era before the protections our Constitution provides, people were tortured to "confess" — that is, to be witnesses against themselves.
It is the government's responsibility, with its vast resources, to find evidence that overcomes every defendant's presumption of innocence. Thanks to the Fifth, the government does not get to take a shortcut by forcing the defendant to "confess."
Image: The Fifth Amendment means Americans don't worry about the "Spanish tickler," which was used to rip the flesh off prisoners, all the way down to the bone, as they were tied to the rack. (Image from Jerónimo Roure Pérez, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Of course, even with the Fifth, the government can still torture people to confess. Thus, you've heard the phrase "the process is the punishment." In the case of General Michael Flynn, the government, with its unlimited resources, destroyed his reputation, bankrupted him, lied about the evidence it had, and then threatened to go after his son. This was a form of torture, and Flynn responded with the equivalent of a confession by taking a plea bargain.
Flynn's experience proved that when torture is sufficient, people will confess to anything to make it end. There's little difference between saying "I did it" to be taken off the rack and "I did it" to protect your child from being destroyed. It was only when Sidney Powell stepped in and went after the government like an avenging fury that we learned about the government's corruption. Flynn withdrew his plea (with great difficulty), but that didn't return to him his reputation, his savings, or years of his life.
However, if the government is a little less vicious or if the defendant, as is the case with Trump, still has resources available, the defendant can stand up to the government by saying nothing at all. This is especially true when the defendant is being attacked relentlessly from all sides.
With a prosecutor like James, if Trump were to say, "I like jam" under oath on Monday and then say, "I like jelly" under oath on Friday, his words would be twisted so that both statements would be perjury, rather than being understood to mean Trump likes both jam and jelly. Again, the best defense is silence, and Trump need not fear hot irons or the lash to make him talk.
With that explanation in mind, it's edifying to read how Trump described James's fanatical hatred for him and her willingness to use the power of the state to destroy him. I've included his statement below, but the video of James's despicable monomania is even more compelling:
Attorney General Letitia James openly campaigned on the policy of "Get and Destroy Trump." This political attack on me, my family, and my great company is her despicable attempt to fulfill that cynical, and very corrupt promise. James developed a political platform and made a career out of maliciously attacking me and my business before she was even elected, or reviewed one of the millions of pages of documents we willingly produced. She proclaimed, "I look forward to going into the Office of Attorney General every day, suing him. . . and then going home!" She announced, "what is fueling my soul right now is Trump", and that she had her "eyes on Trump Tower." She even assured her supporters in an Election promise that, "we're going to definitely sue him. We're going to be a real pain in the ass. He's going to know my name personally", and she claimed I was an "illegitimate President". In her AG victory speech, she promised to "shine a bright light into every dark corner of Trump's real estate holdings." Shortly thereafter, she vowed to "use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions, and that of his family as well."
Letitia James is a failed politician who has intentionally colluded with others to carry out this phony years-long crusade that has wasted countless taxpayer dollars, all in an effort to prop up her political career. During her heated "Trump" rhetoric, she ran for Governor of New York State, using "Getting Trump" as her primary credential. It didn't work, she got very low poll numbers, and ran back into the Office of Attorney General to continue the persecution of "President Donald J. Trump", despite the fact that New York is suffering its worst murder, drug, and overall crime rate in many decades. Criminals are running rampant, shooting, slashing, and hurting people on the sidewalks of New York, while she and her Office spend a big percentage of their time and money on their "Trump" vendetta.
Letitia James openly stated her hostilities toward me, and a kind of retribution that is unthinkable. Years of work and tens of millions of dollars have been spent on this long simmering saga, and to no avail. James now realizes I built a great company with tremendous value, and her case is a "Scam", which is why for years, they haven't been able to file a single charge.
What Letitia James has tried to do the last three years is a disgrace to the legal system, an affront to New York State taxpayers, and a violation of the solemn rights and protections afforded by the United States Constitution.
I did nothing wrong, which is why, after five years of looking, the Federal, State and local governments, together with the Fake News Media, have found nothing.
We cannot permit a renegade and out-of-control prosecutor to use this investigation as a means of advancing her political career. New York deserves better, and this Country deserves better. This is a vindictive and self-serving fishing expedition, the likes of which our Country has never seen before. The United States Constitution exists for this very purpose, and I will utilize it to the fullest extent to defend myself against this malicious attack by this administration, this Attorney General's Office, and all other attacks on my family, my business, and our Country.
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. If there was any question in my mind, the raid of my home, Mar-a-Lago, on Monday by the FBI, just two days prior to this deposition, wiped out any uncertainty. I have absolutely no choice because the current Administration and many prosecutors in this Country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency.
Accordingly, 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.