Trump’s attacks on NY AG Letitia James in court blew up in his face: former prosecutor
In a column for Politico, former prosecutor Renato Mariotti suggested that a decision by Donald Trump to have his attorney attempt to smear New York Attorney General Letitia James in a New York courtroom was a fatal mistake that likely placed him in even greater legal peril.
According to Mariotti, Trump tried to bring politics into the courtroom which, in turn, opened the door for the sitting judge to rule against the former president, as well as Ivanka Trump and Don Trump Jr., on the matter of being questioned that could lead to a devastating criminal indictment.
"Maybe it was Trump’s ego or his insistence that his lawyers make the question of the deposition a political battle rather than a legal one. But while Trump’s attorneys argued that James was using the civil investigation to develop evidence that could be used against Trump in a criminal case, they downplayed his potential criminal liability," he wrote adding that, "Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, spent much of her time arguing that James was pursuing a “vendetta against Donald Trump and his family to take him down” for her own political gain."
That, he explained, might work on Fox News but not in a courtroom and now Trump faces the possibility that his answers -- or refusal to answer -- will be used against him in both civil and criminal investigations.
"It’s not surprising that this approach did not persuade a judge who undoubtedly has come across parallel criminal and civil investigations throughout his career. Trump’s lawyers might argue that James was doing something outside the box by moving forward with a civil investigation of potential fraud while a criminal probe was underway. But as long as there is a proper basis for the civil investigation, the judge’s role is to weigh the potential of impairing the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against the harm caused by pausing the civil investigation, " he wrote.
"So now Trump is between a rock and a hard place. If he sits for this deposition and answers questions under oath, his words can and will be used against him by the Manhattan DA and potentially other criminal prosecutors. But if he takes the Fifth, that can be used against him in the civil case because the judge can instruct the jury to draw an 'adverse inference' against him," the attorney elaborated.
Pointing out that there is no indication that Trump will appeal the judge’s ruling, without completely overhauling his legal strategy, Mariotti said it looks like indictments could be right around the corner after the Trumps testify.
"All signs suggest that the Trump (and his son and daughter) will take the Fifth and blame James for having to do so. That might save face for them for now. But in the long run, it will hurt their position if her investigation results in a civil case against them," he wrote before adding, "Right now, it looks like that is a very distinct possibility."
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