Lawyers for Donald Trump say there is “no legitimate reason” to release video of the businessman testifying at a deposition in one of two class-action lawsuits filed against his real estate investing program, Trump University.
A terse, four-page motion filed Monday in federal court in San Diego is aimed at blocking lawyers for the plaintiffs from putting into the court records excerpts from videotaped depositions Trump gave in the case in December and January.
The motion focuses on legal arguments against releasing the video, noting that transcripts of the depositions are already available, and arguing that seeking the release of the video is an “obvious attempt” to create prejudice against Trump.
Unspoken is the potential political fallout at stake, where snippets of the videos could provide material for campaign ads against Trump’s Republican presidential bid against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs who are seeking to release the video said that it contains “many spontaneous and ad hominem remarks that are not reflected in the paper transcript” of Trump’s testimony. They say his mannerisms are relevant to the legal motions at hand.
The suits contend that students who attended real estate seminars for Trump University were duped into believing they would get schooled in Trump’s own secrets, taught by carefully selected instructors who had expertise, all in a setting that would rival top-drawer business schools.
Instead, the suits say the students got little for their money — the cost of the seminars and ongoing instruction ranged from a little more than $1,000 to nearly $35,000 — and the entire enterprise was a fraudulent scheme to extract as much money as possible from customers using hard-sell, high-pressure tactics.
The jousting over the videos is the latest turn in the legal and political battle surrounding the lawsuits. Trump has said that most people who attended the seminars were satisfied, citing, among other reasons, a 98% satisfaction rate in surveys participants filled out.
Trump has also attacked U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing the cases. Trump has said Curiel is a “hater” who is biased against him, and drew fire from inside and outside the party after referring to Curiel — who was born in Indiana — as a “Mexican.”
Despite criticism, Trump didn’t back down initially from the attacks. Last week, he said his comments had been “misconstrued” and while he still believed he was being treated unfairly in court, he would no longer discuss the case.
He also said Curiel’s membership in the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Assn. presents a bias, since Trump’s calls for a border wall and mass deportations of illegal immigrants runs counter to a group he described as “very pro-Mexican.”
The association fired back, accusing Trump of “abject impropriety” for blasting Curiel, and said it’s a nonpartisan professional organization that focuses on promoting career development. It said it has no ties to the National Council of La Raza, a national group that advocates for immigration reform.
Curiel’s membership was disclosed in the questionnaire he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was nominated for a seat on the federal bench in 2012. He also listed several other organizations, including a life membership in the Hispanic National Bar Assn.
That group, which describes itself as a nonpartisan professional organization representing the interests of Latino legal professionals, last year in a news release called for a boycott of “of all of Trump business ventures, including golf courses, hotels and restaurants.”
Curiel has presided over the cases since 2013, and the court files don’t show that Trump’s lawyers have ever moved for his recusal from the case for bias or any other reason.