A former federal prosecutor triggered bipartisan backlash on Wednesday for suggesting that invoking Fifth Amendment rights implies guilt.
What is the background?
On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump invoked his constitutional rights against self-incrimination, declining to answer questions at a deposition for New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).
Trump announced he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights after arriving to the deposition. The statement explained:
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.
For more than three years, James has been probing Trump's business practices as part of a civil investigation.
What did the prosecutor say?
Daniel Goldman, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York for 10 years, suggested Trump is relaying guilt because he invoked his constitutionally protected rights.
"The Fifth Amendment ensures that people are not forced to incriminate themselves. But you don’t take the Fifth if you didn’t do anything wrong," Goldman said on Twitter.
Goldman is no stranger to Trump.
The former federal prosecutor, who is now running for Congress as a Democrat, served as lead counsel in both impeachment cases against Trump.
What was the response?
New York attorney Eliza Orlins said Goldman's remarks demonstrate "why we don’t trust prosecutors."
"They lie through their teeth, and they don't operate in the best interests of the people (you and me!) they're alleging to represent," Orlins said. "There is *nothing* incriminating about taking the Fifth. It’s a right that every American—yes, including terrible former presidents—has. And should use!"
Former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark, who served in the Trump administration, called Goldman's remarks a "disgraceful position."
"Contrary to Constitution. Contrary to Supreme Court 5th Amend. jurisprudence. An indication that any oaths you took while in the fed'l gov't were a farce," Clark said. "No way you'd be saying this if it were the Clintons or Bidens."
Law reporter Chris Geidner, himself a lawyer, said Goldman's remarks prove why America needs fewer prosecutors in power.
"For the record, s*** like this is why I talk so much about needing more former public defenders — and fewer former prosecutors — on the bench," Geidner tweeted.
Meanwhile, Institute for Justices senior attorney Paul Sherman accused Goldman of lying to score political points.
"Mr Goldman is a Stanford-trained former federal prosecutor and he knows with 100% certainty that this is not true. He’s comfortable lying about it because he’s running for office, and we’ve convinced ourselves that lying is okay if it secures power for your team," Sherman said.