“I don’t know, I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Donald Trump said when asked, in a deposition, if a reputation for being anti-Mexican would hurt business for celebrity restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian. Months before, Zakarian had pulled out of his contract to open a restaurant in the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. over Trump’s comments about undocumented Mexican immigrants, leading to a heated legal battle.
Trump conceded it was his statements about “illegal immigrants” that led to the fallout, “which is a very big topic in this country,” he said. “and which is a topic that, you know, has led to my nomination in a major party in the country, so it’s not a very out there topic,” but claimed he had no idea his politics would prove a business liability.
Wearing a blue and white striped tie and bulky suit jacket, Trump sat before a cloudy gray backdrop—like the kind used for school pictures—at a DC law office on June 16, 2016, exactly one year after he announced his candidacy for President of the United States and made the comments Zakarian—and Jose Andres, among other Americans—found so indefensible.
What he said, if you recall, was this:
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems…When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people…They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. IT’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably, probably, from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
He raised his right hand. “Do you swear the testimony you’re about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” the court reporter asked. “I do,” Trump said.
He stated his name, “Donald John Trump.”
What followed was ninety-nine minutes of deposition—longer than the first presidential debate—the video and full transcript of which were made public on Friday, following Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman ruling Thursday that concerns the video may be used in campaign ads against Trump were insufficient cause to keep it private.
Trump had sought to keep the video from being released, but several news organizations—including Buzzfeed and The Washington Post—sued.
In the video, Trump said he didn’t write his comments about undocumented Mexican immigrants ahead of his announcement speech and didn’t consult with anyone about it, but he had planned on saying what he said on June 16, 2015.
“You’ve taken the position that the media has misinterpreted your comments and liberal groups have misinterpreted your comments,” Zakarian’s lawyer told him.
“Well, I don’t know,” Trump responded. “Some have misinterpreted and some haven’t. The voters, I don’t think have. I got more votes than anybody in the history of the Republican party primaries, by a lot, and you know, that’s pretty mainstream when you think about it…It’s possible that i’ll help him as opposed to hurt him…If he had the restaurant, it would be helped as opposed to hurt…I’ve tapped into something and I’ve tapped into illegal immigration, I’ve tapped into other things also. When you get more votes than anybody in the history of the party…that’s pretty mainstream when you think about it.”
Besides Zakarian and Jose Andres, Trump’s campaign rhetoric has cost him business deals with Univision, Macy’s, NBC, Serta, Turnberry and Lifestyle, a Dubai-based retailer.
“I guess they didn’t like my comments,” Trump said of Univision, during the deposition, “I think they made a mistake.”
I’m a big boy, I understand,” Trump said. “I’ve been making these statements for many years. This is not just new.”