Former President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to testify at Trump Tower on Monday in a lawsuit brought by a group of activists who said they were violently assaulted by his bodyguards in 2015.
Less than a week after the September 2015 incident, a group of five activists filed a lawsuit, claiming security guards led by longtime Mr Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller had them. attacked, snatching signs they were holding, and briefly beating and suffocating one of the demonstrators.
Lawyers for the activists have argued that Mr. Trump was responsible for the actions of his bodyguards because he explicitly authorized them to use force. Mr. Schiller testified that he was authorized to use force at work.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump and other defendants requested a dismissal in 2015, but to no avail. Mr. Trump’s lawyers then argued that he could not be held personally responsible for the actions of his bodyguards. A judge also rejected this argument.
One of the activists’ lawyers, Benjamin N. Dictor, confirmed in a telephone interview that the testimony was to take place as ordered by a judge earlier this month. Mr Dictor said the questioning would focus, at least in part, on what he called “Donald Trump’s individual control and his responsibility for the violent actions of his bodyguards.”
“The issue of the use of physical force at Trump rallies throughout his campaign, and in the presidency for that matter, are serious matters of public interest,” Dictor said. “This incident, of September 3, 2015, was one of the earliest examples of Donald Trump and his employees’ willingness to use physical force against peaceful protesters.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not immediately return a request for comment. Mr. Dictor, a labor lawyer, also represents the New York NewsGuild, a union representing employees of various news publications, including the New York Times.
The plaintiffs, all of Mexican origin, demonstrated against Mr. Trump’s use of racist rhetoric at the start of his presidential campaign and staged several less eventful protests in the summer of 2015. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have argues that it was Mr. Schiller who was initially assaulted by the protesters.
It is not yet clear whether Mr. Trump’s testimony will be made public; Mr. Trump’s lawyers could ask for it to be sealed. But it can touch on several topics of interest, including Mr. Trump’s personal wealth and his relationship with at least one employee who has come under scrutiny by prosecutors investigating the former president and his company.
The activists’ lawsuit demanded that they receive punitive damages, which in New York City is assessed in part based on a defendant’s net worth.
Mr. Trump may also be asked about his relationship with Matthew Calamari, a senior executive who prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office assessed whether to charge with tax crimes. Mr. Calamari, who served as the former president’s bodyguard, was questioned by activists’ lawyers in 2016.
Mr. Calamari’s scrutiny is part of the Manhattan District Attorney’s larger investigation, along with the New York State Attorney General, into Mr. Trump’s financial dealings and those of his company. In July, prosecutors indicted the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen H. Weisselberg, accusing them of participating in a multi-year tax evasion scheme. Mr. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty.