Donald Trump moves to block the release of his video testimony in university lawsuit

Donald Trump's video-recorded deposition could be a powerful weapon in campaign advertisements targeting him.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Attorneys for Donald Trump are seeking to block the filing of a portion of his video-recorded deposition in a class-action lawsuit by former Trump University students, a move that could prevent the public release of the videos, according to a court document filed Friday.

If made public, the videos could be a powerful weapon in campaign advertisements targeting Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as he faces off against Hillary Clinton in the general election.

A partial transcript of Trump’s testimony, which took place in December and January, has already been released at the order of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel. But the video will illuminate Trump’s remarks in a way that words on a page cannot, said Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.


“We all know Trump well enough now to imagine what he said and what his nonverbal cues were,” Sabato said. “Some people are controlled and calculated in their speech patterns, and you can’t tell that much more from watching them. It’s the opposite with Trump.”

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Plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that the videos are important because they contain “many spontaneous and ad hominem remarks” that are not reflected in the transcript.

Trump’s tone, facial expressions, gestures and body language accentuate his “complete and utter unfamiliarity” with the school’s instructors, when Trump claimed he had hand-picked them, the attorneys wrote in a motion seeking to file the videos with the court.

If Curiel accepts the filing, the videos will then become public. Trump has attacked Curiel for being a “Mexican,” alleging that the Indiana-born judge is biased because of Trump’s plan to build a wall at the Mexican border.

On Friday, Trump’s attorneys notified the judge that they plan to oppose the plaintiffs’ request. A motion explaining the reasons for the opposition will be filed no later than Monday, Trump’s lawyers said in the notice.


Also on Friday, attorneys for CNN, Tribune Publishing, the New York Times and other media outlets filed a motion asking that the complete transcripts and videos of Trump’s deposition be publicly released.

Trying to block the release of the videos is a losing battle for Trump, said Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University.

“If he opposes it, he looks like Richard Nixon during Watergate,” Smoller said. “When they come out, and they inevitably will, they will certainly be used by Hillary Clinton as examples of him lacking the temperament for the job.”

The plaintiffs in the Trump University case allege they paid thousands of dollars for real estate advice that turned out to be of little value.

In the partial deposition transcript, released last week, a plaintiffs’ attorney pressed Trump to identify instructors who had worked for him.

When the attorney, Jason Forge, read off a list of names, Trump repeatedly said he did not remember because it had been “too many years.”

Forge also confronted Trump with statements made on his blog years earlier. Bill Clinton was a “great president,” and Hillary Clinton would “make a great president or vice president,” Trump wrote.

It pays for businessmen to curry favor with politicians, Trump responded. But he has since thought more deeply about politics and would probably not call Clinton “a great president anymore because of all of the scandal and the turmoil that he had.” Trump said he now thinks that Hillary Clinton lacks “the gravitas” to be president.

“You would rather have them on your side, politicians,” Trump said, according to the transcript. “When you’re in business, you would like to have the politicians on your side…. You don’t want to say bad about them, ideally you don’t want to say badly.”

Follow me on Twitter @CindyChangLA.


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