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After a transcript leaked last week of former President Donald Trump decrying “very dangerous” fruits he feared protesters might throw at him, Trump’s legal team sprang into action.
New emails show that Trump’s lawyers were so bothered by the deposition becoming public that they actually tried to un-make it public.
Even after The Daily Beast published a story about Trump expressing bizarre concerns about people hurling “pineapples, tomatoes, bananas” at him while onstage—“very dangerous stuff” in Trump’s words—his lawyers still tried to get the deposition that was posted in a court filing taken down.
Trump exposed his fructo-ballistophobia during a closed-door sworn deposition in October, when lawyers questioned him over a lawsuit about the way his security guards attacked demonstrators protesting his racist comments about Mexicans outside Trump Tower in 2015.
Snippets of that transcript—which was chock-full of references to the risk of getting hit with tomatoes—were filed in the court docket by the protesters’ attorney at 7:18 p.m. last Tuesday.
But while two Daily Beast journalists were preparing to publish a story about the fruity deposition, Trump’s legal team was trying to pressure the plaintiff’s lawyer, Benjamin N. Dictor, to delete his own filing. (Dictor also happens to represent The Daily Beast’s News Guild.)
“That exhibit is unnecessary, prejudicial and needs to be pulled ASAP,” Trump defense attorney Jeffrey Goldman wrote to him at 8:08 p.m.
Alina Habba, another Trump lawyer, chimed in as well: “ASAP Ben. That is wholly inappropriate and prejudicial.”
Goldman piled on with another email, saying the Trump assertions at issue—whether or not he ordered his security guards to attack protesters—could have been addressed with a heavily redacted transcript.
“To make your points you did not need the deposition,” Goldman wrote. “You have wrongly released trial testimony.”
But it was too late. Half an hour later, The Daily Beast published a story about the testimony, inspiring a comedy segment from Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and commentary on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers and others.
Later that night, Dictor responded to Trump’s lawyers that he was surprised to meet such fierce resistance, given that they had put him in that position in the first place.
Dictor had independently discovered that Trump’s former fixer (and now sworn nemesis) Michael Cohen was actually in the executive’s office at Trump Tower on Sept. 3, 2015—and recalls the boss ordering security guards to “get rid” of the protesters.
It’s a significant development that, if true, would mean Trump lied under oath. Trump’s lawyers are sparring over Cohen’s upcoming testimony, seeking that it be blocked or limited. Dictor emailed them saying he felt it necessary to provide Trump’s testimony as proof that the twice-impeached former president’s claims would be contradicted by Cohen.
“I would need to submit the contradictory testimony of defendants to demonstrate why Cohen’s testimony was essential,” Dictor explained.
But Trump’s lawyers still didn’t budge.
“Remedy is to remove the exhibit now,” Goldberg shot back.
By that time, The Daily Beast had already written two stories about the deposition, one about the fruit and another noting that Trump admitted to personally overseeing pay for an executive whose fishy corporate perks have been under scrutiny by the Manhattan district attorney. Those admissions potentially strengthen the case against the former president and his company for tax fraud.
The next morning, Dictor said he called the Bronx County Clerk’s Office to have court administrators delete the digital copy of Trump’s deposition on the public docket.
“I advised that the request was being made with the consent of all parties. Notwithstanding, I was advised that they will not remove a document from the docket unless it was either (i) filed to wrong case or (ii) filed to the wrong court,” Dictor emailed Trump’s lawyers last Wednesday.
Cory Morris, an attorney on New York’s Long Island who’s worked on cases related to government transparency, told The Daily Beast he’s concerned about how otherwise public court records are pulled off public dockets and “requests for sealing are made with alarming fervor” nowadays.
“In a government of the People, we have constitutional and human rights to attend, access, retrieve and publish court records with minimal exceptions that must be tied to some articulated importance,” Morris noted. “People must have access to government records, including judicial records, if we are to have transparency and accountability in a democratic republic.”