Trump questioned in lawsuit over 2015 protester crackdown
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump was questioned Monday in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by protesters who say his security team roughed them up in the early days of his presidential campaign in 2015.
Trump testified under oath behind closed doors at Trump Tower in New York City for several hours, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said. Video of the deposition will be played for a jury if the case goes to trial.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Benjamin Dictor, said Trump was questioned on a variety of topics, including comments he’s made at campaign rallies in which he appeared to encourage security personnel to treat protesters harshly.
The lawsuit, brought by five New Yorkers of Mexican origin, alleges that Trump’s bodyguards violently attacked them outside his eponymous Manhattan skyscraper on Sept. 3, 2015 as they protested negative comments Trump made about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.
Trump, in a statement following the deposition, said the protesters were to blame for the scuffle and called their claim baseless, involving “injuries they never suffered, and the temporary loss of a worthless cardboard sign which was soon thereafter returned to them.”
“After years of litigation, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to tell my side of this ridiculous story — Just one more example of baseless harassment of your favorite President,” Trump said.
Trump’s demeanor in answering questions matched that of his public persona while president and the session proceeded like most depositions, said Dictor, the plaintiffs’ lawyer. He declined to go into detail about how Trump handled the questioning and refused to characterize his testimony before presenting the case to a jury.
“While we will not comment on the substance of Mr. Trump’s testimony at this time, we hope today’s events serve as an example that our institutions have prevailed and no one is above the law,” Dictor said.
Trump is a defendant in the lawsuit, along with his company, the Trump Organization, his presidential campaign and security personnel.
Among other demands, the plaintiffs want the real estate mogul turned former commander-in-chief to pay punitive damages, arguing he should have known the security personnel would act in a “negligent or reckless manner.”
Trump’s lawyers resisted having him sit for the deposition. While he was in office, they argued that there must be “exceptional circumstances” to depose a high-ranking government official.
Bronx Judge Doris Gonzalez, who is presiding over the case, rejected that argument, saying it didn’t apply because Trump was being called to answer for conduct outside of office.