Former U.S. President Donald Trump returned to New York to answer questions under oath on Thursday in a $250 million business fraud lawsuit brought against him by the state attorney general.
But the questioning took place behind closed doors, and Trump’s appearance for the civil case did not draw the kind of attention that his historic surrender on separate criminal charges did last week.
A smattering of protesters stood outside New York Attorney General Letitia James’ offices in lower Manhattan when Trump arrived for the deposition shortly before 10 a.m. local time, with one group carrying a banner reading, “No One Is Above the Law.” He did not leave until shortly after 6 p.m.
Trump, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election, was asked about his business practices, a person familiar with the matter said.
Unlike during questioning in August, Trump did answer questions on Thursday, the person said. The questions and answers will not be made public immediately.
In August, before the case was filed, Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment more than 400 times. Legal experts say the attorney general was also entitled to a deposition after the filing of the lawsuit.
When the case was filed in September, James accused Trump of a “staggering” financial fraud. The lawsuit claims Trump, three of his adult children and others participated in a decade-long scheme to manipulate property values and his net worth to obtain favorable loans and tax and insurance benefits.
A trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 2. Thursday’s deposition could be used to try to discredit any testimony Trump may give from the witness stand, or be offered if he is unavailable.
“I will finally be able to show what a great, profitable, and valuable company I built,” Trump said in one of a series of social media posts early Thursday. He also lashed out at the attorney general, the judge presiding over the case and the district attorney who brought the separate criminal charges.
Alina Habba, one of his attorneys, said in a statement that Trump was “eager to testify” and remains “resolute in his stance that he has nothing to conceal.”
The lawsuit seeks $250 million that James says was obtained through financial fraud. It also aims to bar Trump and the three adult children from running businesses in the state and to prohibit him and his company from acquiring commercial real estate in New York for five years.
Trump’s surrender on April 4 drew worldwide media attention and a huge police presence and he returned to his home in Florida the same day after pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Those charges were tied to allegations that he orchestrated a hush-money payment to a porn star before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence over an alleged sexual encounter.
Trump has said the sexual encounter did not take place. His indictment marked the first time a U.S. president has been criminally charged while in office or after.
Trump also faces federal investigations stemming from his handling of government documents after leaving the White House and alleged attempts to overturn his election defeat as well as a state-level probe in Georgia into whether he unlawfully sought to reverse the 2020 election results there.
In addition, a trial is set for April 25 in federal court in New York over whether Trump defamed former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll by denying he raped her. Trump is seeking to delay that trial.