Former President Donald Trump’s fear of getting hit in the face with a pie was so severe that he repeatedly instructed security guards to savagely beat any hooligan who tries, his ex-attorney recently testified behind closed doors.
The Daily Beast has exclusively reviewed a recent four-hour deposition of Michael Cohen, the former Trump Organization consigliere who famously took the fall for his boss’s porn star hush payment scheme and was ultimately imprisoned and disbarred. And Cohen said Trump lied about his role in a 2015 incident that left protesters bloody.
Cohen has become a last-minute witness in an ongoing lawsuit over the way Trump’s corporate security guards beat demonstrators outside Trump Tower in New York City in September 2015. Protesters were calling attention to the then-presidential candidate’s racist speech about Mexican migrants in which he said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The Trump Organization has been accused of hiding—for nearly seven years of the ongoing litigation—that Cohen was actually in the room when Trump spoke to his security chief, Keith Schiller, in the pivotal moments before the violent showdown outside the building on Fifth Avenue.
Although Trump previously swore that he did not order his guards to do anything, Cohen testified to the complete opposite—opening up the possibility that his former boss lied under oath. No recording or transcript of Cohen’s deposition is publicly available, but The Daily Beast was able to review the entire questioning session.
During his May 9 deposition, Cohen described the scene that day. He saw protesters on his way into Trump Tower that morning, then eventually made his way into Trump’s office on the 26th floor. When he informed his boss about the gathering downstairs, Trump called in Schiller.
“Did you see that there’s a demonstration going on?” Trump asked, according to Cohen. “Get rid of them.”
“OK, boss,” Schiller allegedly said.
When Schiller reappeared in his boss’s office less than half an hour later, he had a large piece of a cardboard sign he had ripped out of the hand of Queens resident and demonstrator Efrain Galicia. Video captured by journalists downstairs caught the scrappy fight.
Cohen remembered Schiller saying, “I took the sign. He grabbed me, so I hit him across the side of the head,” to which Trump responded, “Good.”
That ripped-up sign ended up in an office garbage can, Cohen said under oath.
Compare that to what Trump told those same attorneys back in October, when he was asked about whether he directed Schiller “to use any force” or “do anything.”
“No, I didn’t,” Trump responded then.
The company’s former head of security kept to the same version of events when he was asked about it back in 2016.
If the case goes to trial in the coming weeks, jurors will likely hear all three stories and have to make up their minds about whom to believe. Galicia’s case is an otherwise unremarkable lawsuit—except that it dragged a former president into a closed-door deposition that turned out to be hilarious, embarrassing, and a potential liability.
In April, The Daily Beast broke the news that Trump’s testimony included odd admissions that he—and only he—oversaw compensation for an executive whose corporate benefits were under criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The Daily Beast also revealed that Trump has a bizarre fear of “pineapples, tomatoes, bananas” getting thrown at him by angry protesters, calling them “dangerous stuff.” His legal team also scrambled to hide his fructo-ballistophobia by trying to erase his testimony from a public court record.
Cohen’s testimony now touches on another apparent Trump anxiety: pieing.
When being questioned, Cohen explained how his former boss at one point became obsessed over the way computer biz billionaire Bill Gates once got attacked with a pie to the face.
“For some reason that upset Mr. Trump terribly. We were all instructed that if somebody was to ever throw anything at him, that if that person didn’t end up in the hospital, we'd all be fired,” he said, noting that the instruction came from the head honcho himself.
When contacted by The Daily Beast on Friday, Cohen clarified that Trump at times seemed obsessed with pies.
“It wasn’t just one time. It was an ongoing and regular thing. As he would go out to various different open venues, he would always remind Keith [Schiller] to keep his eyes open,” Cohen told The Daily Beast. “He never would turn around and say, ‘If anyone throws a rock or a bottle…’ It’s always a pie. He always brought up that pie thing.”
Trump’s apparent preoccupation with flying pastries subsided once he was assigned a Secret Service detail, Cohen remembered.
Trump’s penchant for using his guards as physical enforcers also came up during Cohen’s deposition when he discussed the way Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was pushed out of a press conference in August 2015. Then-candidate Trump refused to answer questions asked in English by the Spanish-language TV journalist and signaled to Schiller to forcefully escort him out of the room.
Trump attorney Alina Habba tried to avoid any mention of that incident by saying, “I’m gonna object to this whole line of questioning.” But Cohen continued.
“He doesn’t particularly care for Jorge Ramos, and he was glad that he was escorted out,” Cohen recalled under oath.
Habba spent nearly half of her time cross-examining Cohen on his interactions with The Daily Beast, as it was this publication which first deduced that Cohen was a witness to the events that day and connected him to the demonstrators’ lawyer. Habba repeatedly asked Cohen to explain how he first heard of the case and got in contact with plaintiffs’ attorney Benjamin N. Dictor (who also happens to represent The Daily Beast’s reporters’ labor union, the NewsGuild.)
Habba—who has essentially replaced Cohen as the former president’s personal legal adviser and attack dog on TV news programs—constantly traded jabs with Cohen throughout the interview. She attacked his credibility as a convicted felon and disbarred lawyer, and she maligned his current media personality gig as a scorned enemy who still makes money by talking about his former boss. Meanwhile, Cohen used his hotseat to irritate her.
“How did you leave Trump Tower when you would walk out?” she asked at one point.
“With my feet,” he shot back.