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When it comes to Donald Trump, a transcript of what he said in the deposition from the ongoing Trump University fraud case is fine, but many media outlets would prefer to have video. And forget confidentiality. On Friday, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post urged a judge for complete access to deposition videos — including the portions that continue to be under a protective order.
On Monday, Trump’s attorney Daniel Petrocelli responded to attempts by the plaintiff to submit video via a thumb drive. “In fact, plaintiff offers no legitimate reason for seeking submission of these videos, which are clearly intended only to prejudice Mr. Trump,” he writes.
The matter is before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the same one who has been the subject of Trump’s taunts of supposed partiality.
Trump has been railing against the judge for months, but it was after Curiel in late May granted the unsealing of certain exhibits connected to class certification that Trump mentioned the judge’s “Mexican heritage,” which caused House Speaker Paul Ryan to say it was a “textbook definition of a racist comment.”
That decision on the unsealing of exhibits came after the first intervention from third-party media organizations. On May 27, Curiel granted the unsealing motion, noting at the time that Trump “has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue.”
Still, that hasn’t ended the odd fight over court records in this case over whether students were advised to max out credit cards and empty 401(k)s to hear those “handpicked” by Trump instruct about how to get rich in the real estate industry. The media organizations want much, much more and tell the judge, “Given the undeniable and substantial public interest in these proceedings, the need for transparency could not be greater.”
Perhaps sensing some leverage, attorneys for the plaintiffs are looking to exert maximum political pain for Trump themselves. They are interpreting the judge’s order to mean that videos of the unsealed exhibits also should be in the public record. That would include the moments in Trump’s deposition where he was asked whether he believed as he once wrote that Bill Clinton was a “great president” and that Hillary Clinton was “smart, tough and a very nice person.”
Plus, there’s more.
“The paper transcript does not reflect the contents of these exhibits, which were played during Trump’s depositions,” attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote in a brief filed on Friday. “Likewise, Trump made many spontaneous and ad hominem remarks that are not reflected in the paper transcript of his depositions. Last, Trump’s tone, facial expressions, gestures, and body language are also not reflected in the paper transcripts, yet they speak volumes ….”
Petrocelli, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers, doesn’t see that as justification. “Plaintiff’s purported reason for offering the video as an exhibit is wholly insufficient given that a witness’s credibility is irrelevant at summary judgment,” he writes in Monday’s filing.
It’s now Curiel’s task to decide whether cable newscasts have access to Trump being grilled in a lawsuit. He’s of course giving no interviews despite being one of the most unexpectedly important figures in the 2016 election.
As for Petrocelli, who became famous for beating O.J. Simpson in a civil lawsuit (resisting cameras in that case), he told The Hollywood Reporter in April that what Trump said on on the campaign trail wouldn’t impact the decision-making. Said the distinguished attorney, “I think the judge recognizes the rhetoric that takes place in politics is not for the courtroom, and I think he’s separated the two.”
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