Donald Trump’s deposition has been released in a lawsuit claiming he sicced security on protesters in 2015.
Trump swore under oath that he gave no directives to his security personnel that day.
Michael Cohen has told the protesters’ lawyer that Trump’s sworn account is inaccurate.
A partial transcript has been released revealing Donald Trump’s sworn account of a demonstration outside Trump Tower on September 3, 2015 — a day when his security guards tangled violently with protesters of Mexican heritage who held cardboard signs reading “Make America Racist Again.”
Trump swore under oath that he did not sic his security staff on the protesters, or direct them to grab the signs, according to excerpts from an October deposition that were released Tuesday night as part of a lawsuit scheduled for trial in the Bronx next month.
But Michael Cohen has a very different account of Trump’s actions that day, the protesters’ lawyer said in a filing that accompanied the transcript.
In fact, Cohen was at Trump’s side upstairs in Trump Tower that day, and he saw Trump order his top security guard, Keith Schiller, to “get rid” of the demonstrators, the filing in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx said.
Cohen followed Schiller “downstairs, and then back upstairs,” the filing states. Then, “Mr. Cohen observed Defendant Schiller return to Defendant Trump’s office with [the protesters’] sign that was forcibly taken” from lead plaintiff Efraim Galicia, the filing said.
The cardboard sign depicted the Trump campaign logo and slogan, “Make America Great Again,” replacing the word “again” with the word “racist.”
“Mr. Cohen is an eyewitness to events taking place in the Trump Organization offices and to Defendant Trump’s directive to his private security personnel to ‘get rid’ of’ [the protesters] on September 3, 2015,” the protesters’ lawyer, Benjamin Dictor, wrote in the filing.
“Moreover, Mr. Cohen’s information directly contradicts Defendant Trump’s defense that he knew nothing about the Plaintiffs’ protest until a day or more after it occurred,” the filing continued.
Dictor is asking a judge to briefly delay the original May 2 trial date for the case — which names as defendants Trump, his presidential campaign, his real estate business and Keith Schiller, a retired NYPD detective who has been Trump’s director of security since 2004.
Five protesters filed the lawsuit in 2015. They say that the then-presidential candidate directed his security team to violently break up their demonstration on the sidewalk outside the Fifth Avenue Manhattan skyscraper where Trump has a penthouse apartment, the headquarters for his business, and, at the time, his campaign offices.
Schiller specifically is accused of punching lead plaintiff Efrain Galicia in the head after stealing Galicia’s sign in a scuffle that was caught on video, including by local cable news channel NY1. Schiller has said in an affidavit that he believed Galicia was grabbing for his gun from behind when he turned and struck Galicia’s head with an open hand.
Trump is the lead defendant in the lawsuit, but he’s not required to testify in person at trial. Instead, jurors will see his 4.5-hour videotaped deposition, the excerpts of which were released Tuesday night.
Trump had fought hard not to be deposed. Once he was finally under oath six months ago, at a conference table in Trump Tower, he denied any involvement in the protest that happened six years prior, 26 floors below his offices.
“At any time on September 3, 2015, which is the date that Mr. Galicia contends he was injured, did you personally observe anyone protesting outside of Trump Tower?” Trump and Schiller’s lawyer, Lawrence Rosen, asked toward the lengthy deposition’s end.
“No,” Trump answered.
“At any time on September 3, 2015, did you direct Keith Schiller to use force against any of the protesters outside Trump Tower?”
“No,” Trump answered.
“At any time on September 3, 2015, did you direct anyone to take any of the protesters’ signs?”
“No,” Trump answered again.
Minutes later, Rosen asked Trump, “At any time on September 3, 2015, did you learn that Keith Schiller had taken one of the protesters’ signs?”
Trump then launched into a condemnation of the demonstrators, who had gathered on the sidewalk to protest comments he’d made there three months prior in announcing his run for the White House — including that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
“Well, sometime after the day that this took place, through a lot of bedlam that was caused by the Ku Klux Klan outfits and all of the things that were happening out there, I started to hear about this,” Trump said.
A few of the protesters had worn parody Ku Klux Klan robes, to mock Trump for winning early support of white supremacist and former Grand Wizard David Duke.
“But a lot of public was calling and complaining about it because of the Ku Klux Klan in particular,” Trump continued, according to the transcript.
“But so I started to piece things together,” he said. “And at some point I heard that there was a sign that was taken away, blocking an entrance to a…” At that point, the transcript excerpt reaches the bottom of a page, and ends.
The delay being requested in the filing that accompanied the excerpts would allow Cohen time to sit for a deposition before the trial starts, and to tell his story in front of lawyers for both sides.
The matter has since been resolved, according to a stipulation that was also filed Tuesday night.
“Michael Cohen shall appear in person for a video-taped examination before trial at a location to be determined before May. 17, 2022,” the stipulation says, adding that the resulting deposition would be played at trial in lieu of Cohen testifying in person.
Cohen declined to comment on his upcoming deposition when reached by Insider Wednesday morning, except to say, “I am prepared to do what I am legally required to do, so long as the documents are not defective.”
As for what Trump said in the newly-released excerpts, Cohen said, “As I have repeatedly stated time and again, Donald J. Trump was involved in every aspect of the Trump Organization, regardless of how big or small the matter.”
The filings ask New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Gonzalez for a new, June 20 trial date; it is signed by Nathaniel K. Charny, another lawyer for the protesters; Jeffrey Goldman, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign; and Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, the Trump Organization and Schiller.
Trump’s deposition in the protester case is the first he has been successfully compelled to give since the 2016 election. But others will come, since Trump can no longer hold off his crowd of would-be deposers by arguing he is too busy running the country.
The former president’s next deposition is scheduled for June 16 in a lawsuit alleging he promoted a scam multi-level marketing scheme. Trump has also been court-ordered to give a deposition by June 21 in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by “Electric Avenue” singer Eddy Grant.
Trump is also appealing a Manhattan judge’s order that he sit for a deposition for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has been probing The Trump Organization for three years.
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