Former President Donald Trump returned to New York City to provide a videotaped deposition in a case about his security team’s crackdown on a protest during 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, said Benjamin Dictor, the lawyer for the plaintiffs . Video of the deposition will be played for a jury if the case goes to trial.
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.
Trump’s demeanor in answering questions matched that of his public persona while president and the session proceeded like most depositions, Dictor said. The lawyer declined to go into detail about how Trump handled the questioning and refused to characterize his testimony before presenting the case to a jury.
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"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.
A message seeking comment was left with a lawyer representing Trump in the lawsuit. In a statement emailed to his supporters after the deposition, Trump said said those bringing the lawsuit "have no one to blame but themselves," and defended the security team's actions.
"Rather than protest peacefully, the plaintiffs intentionally sought to rile up a crowd by blocking the entrance to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, in the middle of the day, wearing Klu Klux Klan robes and hoods. When security tried to deescalate the situation, they were unfortunately met with taunts and violence from the plaintiffs themselves," the statement from Trump said. "Seeing this for what it is, prior to my deposition today, the Court dismissed almost all of the plaintiffs’ claims—except for a baseless claim for 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."
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 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.”
“This is a case about Donald Trump’s security guards assaulting peaceful demonstrators on a public sidewalk," Dictor said last Thursday. "We will be taking the trial testimony of Donald Trump, under oath, on Monday after years of the defendants’ dilatory attempts to shield him from this examination. We look forward to presenting the video of Mr. Trump’s testimony to a jury at his trial.”
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.