A New York judge ordered President Donald Trump on Friday to provide a videotaped deposition for a lawsuit by protesters accusing Trump Tower guards of assault. One of the guards later joined Trump’s White House staff and is currently working for the Republican National Committee.
The lawsuit was filed by five activists against Trump and his guards who say there were attacked during a peaceful protest outside the Manhattan high-rise four years ago. They were demonstrating against then-candidate Trump’s remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement and his comments that Mexican immigrants were “criminals” and “rapists.”
The jury in the case that begins Thursday needs the testimony to determine to what extent the guards directly reported to Trump, and if he authorized the actions against protesters. One of the three guards named in the suit, Keith Schiller, was head of security of the Trump Organization and later became director of Oval Office operations under Trump in 2017. After he left the White House that year, Schiller was hired by the Republican National Committee to advise on security for the 2020 convention, according to CNN.
Trump’s request to quash a subpoena to testify was rejected Friday by Bronx Supreme Court Judge Doris Gonzalez.
“No government official, including the executive, is above the law,” Gonzalez ruled. “President Trump’s relationship with the other defendants is now central to plaintiffs’ prosecution of their claims under the theory of respondeat superior. As such, his testimony is indispensable.”
Trump was ordered to provide the testimony by Thursday, but he can appeal or request a delay.
During the 2015 confrontation outside Trump Tower, guards told protesters (some of whom were dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes) that the sidewalk was private property — it’s not — and pushed them away. Schiller was also captured on videotape (below) angrily ripping away protest signs and striking plaintiff Efrain Galicia in the head when he attempted to retrieve one of them. Schiller struck with “a closed fist on the head with such force it caused (him) to stumble backwards,” the lawsuit states.
Schiller argued in an affidavit after the suit was filed that the protesters and their banners were blocking public access to the sidewalks and Trump Tower. He also claimed Galicia grabbed him from behind, and feared he was reaching for Schiller’s firearm. “I instinctively reacted by turning around ... and striking the person with my open hand,” he said, noting Trump was inside the building at the time.
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to forbid the Trump security officials from interfering with public protests and are seeking damages.
Trump’s attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.