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Tipsheet

Here's the Liberal Media's Weak Sauce Take on Trump Pleading the Fifth

AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

The FBI raided Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago, a federal court has paved the way for authorities to get their hands on his tax returns, and he sat down for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James' clown show investigation into his organization—and it's only Wednesday. 

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This entire week has been a multi-pronged legal assault against the former president at the state and federal levels. These investigations aren't about law and order or anything related to honoring the principles of justice—it's about the Democrats putting their plans into high gear as Trump gears up for another presidential run against a mentally degraded, unpopular, and incontinent Joe Biden. 

I'm sure the left was confident that the January 6 riot would stop him. When that failed, the House select committee would find some evidence to indict him on something, right? The Manhattan DA's office's probe into his tax returns also yielded nothing; that probe has been suspended indefinitely. 

Trump was removed from social media platforms, but he remains the force in the Republican Party. Democrats impeached him twice on bogus charges and failed. So, when the former president pleaded the Fifth in James' witch hunt probe into the Trump Organization, the media saw their moment to exploit a breach with this man who has slapped them down at every turn, and the best they could come up with is "Trump is a hypocrite on the Fifth Amendment." 

This plays out as a "gotcha" moment inside the media bubble. 

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"We have him now; open the champagne, everyone." 

That's the view of the college-educated, urban elite who suffer from political aphasia on every issue. The public relations war on this was lost years ago. No one trusts any investigation against Trump after the Russian collusion probe was exposed as a total fraud. If the feds could manufacture evidence to keep a myth alive and secure FISA spy warrants on Americans illegally—what else can they do? 

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Raiding the home of the former president put that abuse of power in full view of the public this week. Also, the media are the biggest hypocrites on the planet. Politicians are not far behind; every voter knows this. Even those who don't vote know that these two groups say one thing and do another. When you have an agenda that espouses elitist, minoritarianism like the left, you can see how these folks view the "Trump pleaded the Fifth" story as a win. To most of the country, it was met with either a shrug or outright dismissal since the principal character in opposition to the former president is someone who campaigned to get him. 

Besides the "he's a hypocrite" angle that no one cares about, we have this Washington Post piece that seems somewhat disappointed that invoking the right to no self-incrimination in New York doesn't carry the legal consequences like in other states (via WaPo): 

“The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said when Hillary Clinton aides did so in 2016. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” He added in 2014: “If you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell!”

Trump said these things despite having already invoked the Fifth Amendment in his divorce proceedings in 1990.

But beyond that, there’s the fact that pleading the Fifth isn’t such a simple matter in civil cases like the one Trump faces. While in criminal cases, pleading the Fifth can’t be used against you, the rules are different in this instance.

Eugene Volokh offered a useful primer on this for The Washington Post back in 2015. Here are some of the highlights:

What happens if you invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in a civil case?

1. You can do it, and you won’t be held in contempt for failing to testify. Though the provision says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” the Supreme Court has made clear that this extends to compelling a person to testify in a civil case, when that compelled testimony could later be used against him in a criminal case....

2. But a decision to take the Fifth may be used against a party in a civil case (if the party is the witness who refuses to testify, or is closely enough connected to the witness). In a criminal case, the judge and the prosecutor may not tell a jury “that it may draw an inference of guilt from a defendant’s failure to testify about facts relevant to his case.” But that’s not so in a civil case.

That’s the federal standard. Many states have more stringent rules against drawing adverse inferences in state-level civil cases. But New York, where the Trump civil case is playing out, does not.

Judge Arthur Engoron said those under investigation “cannot use the Fifth Amendment as both a sword and a shield — a shield against questions and a sword against the investigation itself.”

Engoron added that Trump and his children “will have the right to refuse to answer any questions that they claim might incriminate them, and that refusal may not be commented on or used against them in a criminal prosecution. However, there is no unfairness in allowing the jurors in a civil case to know these refusals and to draw their own conclusions.”

And indeed, a former version of Trump would seem to agree that’s quite fair.

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How many times have we been here before? I'm a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise but acknowledged that after Part III, things went from silly to outright outlandish—need I say more about "Jason Takes Manhattan," where somehow the boat from Camp Crystal Lake can venture into the Atlantic Ocean? 

We're seeing that same foolishness with the litany of Trump probes that don't go anywhere. Then again, it has become a much more disturbing narrative given that agents of the state have been dispatched to harass the Democrats' political enemies.   

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