Former President Donald J. Trump is expected to testify at Trump Tower on Monday as part of a trial brought by a group of activists who said they were violently attacked by their bodyguards in 2015.
Less than a week after the September 2015 incident, a group of five activists sued, saying that security guards, led by Mr Trump’s longtime bodyguard, Keith Schiller, attacked them, broke the signs they were holding, and punched and briefly suppressed a protester.
Lawyers for the activists argued that Mr Trump was responsible for the actions of his bodyguards because he had explicitly authorized them to use force. Mr. Schiller testified that he was authorized to use force while at work.
Lawyers for Mr Trump and the other defendants went on to have the case dismissed in 2015, but were unsuccessful. Mr Trump’s lawyers then argued that he could not be held personally responsible for the actions of his bodyguards. A judge rejected that argument as well.
One of the activists’ attorneys, Benjamin Ann Dictor, confirmed in a phone interview that the testimony was to be as ordered by a judge earlier this month. Mr Dictor said the inquiry would be at least partly focused on what he called “personal control of Donald Trump and responsibility for the violent actions of his bodyguards”.
“The issue of the use of physical force at Trump rallies throughout his campaign, and the presidency for that matter, are serious matters of public interest,” Mr. Dictor said. “This incident, from September 3, 2015, was one of the first examples of Donald Trump and his staff willing to use physical force against peaceful protesters.”
Mr Trump’s lawyers did not immediately return a request for comment. Mr. Dictor, a labor attorney, also represents the New York Newsguild, a union representing employees of various news publications, including The New York Times.
The plaintiffs, all of whom were of Mexican descent, had been demonstrating against Mr Trump’s racist rhetoric in the early days of his presidential campaign, and held several less eventful protests during the summer of 2015. Mr Trump’s lawyers argued that it was Mr Schiller who was initially attacked by protesters.
It is not yet clear whether Mr. Trump’s testimony will be made public; Mr Trump’s lawyers could have asked that it be sealed. But it could touch on several topics of interest, including Mr Trump’s personal assets and his relationship with at least one employee, who has been investigated by prosecutors probing the former president and his business.
The activists’ lawsuit demanded that they be awarded punitive damages, which are assessed partly according to the defendant’s net worth in New York.
Mr Trump may also be asked about his relationship with Matthew Calamari, a senior executive. Prosecutors at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Have Weighed Whether to charge for tax related offences. Mr. Kalamari, who had worked as a bodyguard to the former president, was questioned by activists’ lawyers in 2016.
Mr. Calamari’s investigation is part of a broader Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s financial dealings and his business, along with the Attorney General of the State of New York. In July, prosecutors arrested the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Alan H. Weiselberg, accusing him of participating in a one-year tax evasion scheme. Mr Weiselberg pleaded not guilty.