Donald Trump takes the fifth: What is the Fifth Amendment and when is it used?
Donald Trump, known hater of the fifth amendment, invokes it during meetings with NY state law enforcement officials. What does this mean for his case?
This has been a tough week for Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, FBI agents executed a warrant at Mar-a-Lago as a part of an investigation being under taken by the Department of Justice. Attorney General Merrick Garland has confirmed that he is the one who approved the search order.
Then, on Wednesday, Donald Trump was deposed by the New York state Attorney General in a civil probe over the former president’s business practices. After the meeting, he told his followers on Truth social that he had pled the fifth, a shock to many who have followed him in recent years.
Trump has long railed against those who plead the fifth but after meeting with the state AG, he took to Truth Social defending his choice.
“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,” truthed Trump.
Donald Trump has not looked kindly on people who plead the fifth and has questioned those who invoke their constitutional right for years, saying, “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Interestingly, this is not the first time Trump is taking the fifth. The Washington Post reported that in 1990 Trump invoked the fifth during his divorce from Ivana Trump. When Donald Trump was asked about infidelity, he invoked his rights “to avoid answering questions about adultery.”
What is the fifth amendment?
Under the Bill of Rights, the fifth amendment grants various rights. Primarily the amendment outlines one’s political rights concerning interactions with law enforcement and the judicial system.
The fifth amendment protects a right to a “grand jury” unless the allegded offenses are under military jurisdiction or a “public danger”; it also prohibits double jeopardy and works to prevent self-incrimination and ensure due process. Lastly, it protects one’s right to private property by ensuring that if a property is taken for public use, the owner must receive “just compensation.”
When one pleads the fifth, they are protecting themselves from self-incrimination. Trump’s comments that reject the idea that a person could be innocent and plead the fifth undermine the right, which he now has used at least twice.
To prevent self-incrimination, a jury is barred from interpreting an unwillingness to answer questions as an admission of guilt. There are some instances under which testifying creates a high risk of self-incrimination, and the fifth amendment aims to prevent these circumstances. Imagine a case where someone is framed for a crime or a case where the only evidence comes from the testimony of the person on trial. The right forbids a person to “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”