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A sedate Trump discusses campaign, immigrants in deposition video over hotel dispute

Part one: Donald Trump gives a video deposition in June.

The braggadocio was familiar, but it came without the bombast typically seen on the campaign trail.

Donald Trump bragged about his hotel’s beauty and the power of his brand. He gloated about getting more votes in the Republican primaries than anyone in history and found ways to direct the conversation to glowing remarks he received from a Fox News personality.

And when faced with something critical or awkward, the Republican presidential candidate deflected or complained about the press.

But overall there were no pugilistic moments, which is surprising considering the setting. The candidate was being deposed in June by a corporate lawyer representing a well-known restaurateur who pulled out of Trump’s new Washington, D.C., hotel shortly after the candidate last year characterized some Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.

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In contrast to his boisterous rallies and combative media interviews, the mogul was subdued, matter-of-fact and calm -- his only gestures were a weak smile or shrug, not his typical swirling of hands and jabbing of fingers. There were no pointed insults.

But he defended his remarks about immigrants.

Part two: Donald Trump gives a video deposition in June.

“All I’m doing is bringing up a situation which is very real, about illegal immigration. And I think, you know, most people think I’m right,” he said quietly, relaxed with arms crossed, as he sat at a table, according to a video of the deposition released on Friday. “And I’ve tapped into illegal immigration. I’ve tapped into other things, also.”

The video was released by a Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge almost two months after transcripts of the deposition were made public. Though there was nothing surprising in the deposition, Trump’s lawyers fought to seal the video, saying in court papers that they didn’t want the suit being turned into “a three-ring circus that is tried in the media.”

The judge, Brian Holeman, sided with news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, seeking its release. “The possibility that excerpts of the video recording may be used in so-called ‘negative attack ads’ in an election campaign is inherently speculative,” Holeman wrote in an order Thursday.

The order is connected with a $10 million lawsuit filed by Trump against chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who had signed a lease to run a restaurant in the billionaire’s luxury hotel in the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, just down the street from the White House.

When Trump announced his bid for the presidency in June 2015, he drew fire for saying that Mexico is not “sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

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Zakarian promptly withdrew from the project, saying in a statement that Trump’s statements “do not in any way align with my personal core values.”

Another famous chef, Jose Andres, also backed out from a project at the hotel. And several other business partners of Trump’s terminated their relationships or allowed them to expire.

Trump quickly sued the chefs for damages.

Under questioning from Zakarian’s lawyer, Deborah Baum, the businessman said he had planned ahead about what he would say when announcing his candidacy, but hadn’t written down his speech or discussed the contents with anybody ahead of time. He said he hadn’t thought about whether the comments might hurt his tenants and suggested his high-profile campaign might actually help them.

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He said that his run for the presidency had not damaged his own businesses and, in one case, may have helped, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“I don’t think it’s had much” of an impact, Trump said. “I mean, I could tell you one -- one example where it’s actually been very positive is in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. It’s had a very positive impact. The manager told me recently, he said, ‘Boy, this is the best -- it is actually the best year we’ve ever had at Mar-a-Lago,’” which has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending by the Trump campaign on events.

When Baum asked Trump if he thought the lease theoretically permitted him to stand outside of Zakarian’s restaurant with a sign calling the chef a “racist,” a move that would presumably hurt the chef’s business, Trump said he probably could. But he added such an action would not change the fact that he and the tenant had a deal.

“He’s got a lease,” Trump said. “He’s got a lease. He’s got to pay his -- he’s got to pay his rent.”

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Though Trump didn’t bring his feisty attitude to the deposition as he has throughout the campaign, he was consistent in another way, if critics of his performance at Monday’s debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton are to be believed.

“What did you do to prepare for the case today?” Baum asked.

“I would say virtually nothing,” Trump replied.

Twitter: @delwilber

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