Trump Dodges Questions in Marathon Deposition Over Protest Violence, Lawyer Claims

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David Dee Delgado/Getty
David Dee Delgado/Getty

Donald Trump testified under oath for about four-and-a-half hours on Monday over his role in a 2015 incident where protesters allege they were assaulted by his security team outside Trump Tower.

The deposition took place at Trump Tower, from 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., according to the activists’ lawyer, Benjamin Dictor, who claimed that there were a handful of questions Trump declined to answer. The attorney added that he planned to ask the judge in a civil suit stemming from the episode later this month whether the ex-commander in chief must respond to those queries.

Amanda Miller, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization, vigorously disputed the account of the proceedings.

“Mr. Dictor’s claim is completely false,” she said. “President Trump answered every single question that was asked of him at his deposition today. There was not a single question he did not answer. They were just not the answers Mr. Dictor was hoping for.”

Trump was joined by three or four Secret Service personnel and two lawyers, Dictor said, adding that the ex-president was presented with evidence, including documents and videos relevant to the case.

“This deposition was like any other deposition of an employer who was a defendant in a civil matter,” Dictor told The Daily Beast following the proceeding. (Dictor is a labor attorney who also represents the NewsGuild, a media workers’ union that represents staffers at many outlets, including The Daily Beast’s editorial union).

“Everything proceeded professionally,” Dictor added.

A video of the lengthy testimony will be played for a jury when the case heads to trial, which is likely to be scheduled during an Oct. 25 case conference.

“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 in a statement to The Daily Beast.

Trump’s attorney, Jeffrey Goldman, who was present for the deposition, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, the reality TV maven turned president tried to quash a subpoena that would force him to testify in connection with the suit, but this year, a state appellate court dismissed Trump’s request.

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On Monday, the ex-president was expected to be questioned about whether he authorized or condoned his henchmen to manhandle protesters or otherwise remove activists from his events in general, as well as what role one particular guard—Keith Schiller—played in Trump’s inner circle.

Among the other potential subjects of inquiry on Monday was Matthew Calamari, the Trump Organization’s chief operating officer and former director of security who was present the day of the rally. Last month, sources told The Daily Beast that Calamari was under scrutiny by Manhattan prosecutors as part of a tax fraud probe into the business and its executives.

Since leaving office, Trump has continued to face a wave of litigation, including from his niece Mary Trump and Summer Zervos, who is suing Trump for defamation. Zervos, who was a contestant on The Apprentice, alleges Trump defamed her when he called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

The protester case stems from a 2015 press conference, during which security guards allegedly roughed up a group of demonstrators who gathered outside the Fifth Avenue skyscraper to protest Trump’s notoriously racist outburst about Mexican immigrants. Months earlier, when announcing his candidacy, he said Mexico and other countries were “sending people” who were bringing drugs and crime to America. Trump also called immigrants “rapists.”

In response, Efrain Galicia and four other Mexican activists displayed a “Make America Racist Again” banner outside the building on Sept. 3, 2015. They also wore parody Ku Klux Klan costumes after Trump was endorsed by former KKK leader David Duke.

Days after the event, the activists filed a lawsuit in Bronx County Supreme Court alleging Trump’s security team attacked them and destroyed their property, and named Trump, his political campaign, the Trump Organization, and Schiller as defendants.

According to the complaint, Gary Uher, one of Trump’s guards, shoved a protester shortly after he put on his KKK costume. While a second activist filmed the incident, Trump security officer Edward Jon Deck Jr. allegedly shoved her, too, after ordering her to stop recording.

Galicia arrived with three protest signs soon after and set them against cement planters on the sidewalk. Uher and an unnamed guard approached the group and tossed Galicia’s banners to the ground, the lawsuit alleges. When Galicia went to reinstall his posters, Schiller “swiftly and menacingly approached Galicia” before ripping one banner in half and walking away with the other.

When Galicia followed Schiller to retrieve his property, the complaint alleges, Schiller “swung around and struck Galicia with a closed fist on the head with such force that it caused Galicia to stumble backwards.” Galicia says an unnamed guard then put him in a chokehold.

In a 2016 deposition of his own, Schiller testified that he clocked Galicia because he believed the protester was reaching for Schiller’s concealed firearm.

Schiller added, however, that he never discussed the Galicia incident with Trump. When asked if he always obeyed Trump’s orders to remove disruptive activists at events, Schiller replied, “Not always, no.”

“I’m not a robot,” Schiller testified. “It’s been times when it wasn’t appropriate and I didn’t do it.”

Meanwhile, in an affidavit, Uher said he “politely asked just one of the demonstrators (who was dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit) to move away from the main entrance” and that he “escorted this person a short distance so that pedestrian traffic in and out of the Premises would not be obstructed.” Uher, a former FBI agent, added, “Beyond this one very brief interaction, I had no other interactions with any of the many other demonstrators.”

Uher also said he was submitting a photo as an exhibit which showed him “gently guiding this individual down the sidewalk, without force…”

For his part, Deck also denied attacking any of the demonstrators. In a 2016 deposition, Deck said he saw someone “run after Mr. Schiller and jump on his back and grab him around the waist,” so he grabbed the person to protect the fellow guard.

“I saw somebody creating a very, very extremely dangerous situation of going for somebody’s gun on a waistband, underneath his—on his hip,” Deck testified.

“There is no other physical act that occurred which could give rise to any claim of an assault or battery,” Deck stated in a 2017 affidavit, “and I committed no such act.”

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