Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to answer questions posed to him by the New York Attorney General as part of her investigation into the former president’s business dealings.
Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to New York Attorney General Letitia James, saying in a later statement that “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you accepting the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to this question. When your family, your business, and everyone in your orbit has become the targets of a politically baseless witch hunt backed by lawyers, prosecutors, and fake media, you have no choice. “
So what is the Fifth Amendment and what rights does it protect?
A person only has to answer in front of a grand jury
The Fifth Amendment creates a number of individual rights for both civil and criminal legal proceedings. It states that a person only has to answer for their crimes when they are “on a presentation or indictment from a grand jury”.
There are exceptions for cases brought before military courts or for those actively serving in the military.
In addition, a person cannot be called to testify against himself in a criminal case, cannot be prosecuted twice for the same offense and must not “be deprived of life, liberty or property, without regularity of the law”.
What is the history of the Fifth Amendment?
The clauses of the amendment have different origins.
According to Congress, the concept of a grand jury originated in England and Athens, Greece. It is believed to have first been mentioned in the 1683 Charter of Freedoms and Privileges, passed by the New York General Assembly which established 12 counties, rules for elections and settler rights.
“Its adoption into our Constitution as the sole method of bringing charges in serious criminal cases shows the high place it occupied as an instrument of justice,” wrote James Madison in a draft Bill of Rights.
The origins of the concept of double criminality are more difficult to trace, while the self-incrimination clause comes from the Latin expression “nemo tenetur seipsum accusare”, which means “no one is obliged to accuse himself”.
Former Trump advisers used the Fifth Amendment in their investigations
Trump’s former associates have previously invoked their Fifth Amendments in investigations that spurred their rise as key players during his presidency.
Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has refused to hand over documents subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was examining Flynn’s interactions with Russian officials as part of its interference investigation. of Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen used his Fifth Amendment right in a civil suit brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels, who named Cohen as a defendant. Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, said she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago and signed a confidentiality agreement with Cohen days before the 2016 election, in exchange for $130,000 .