A group of activists who claim they were assaulted by Donald Trump’s security force outside of Trump Tower in 2015 have subpoenaed the President to testify in their case. But in a letter to the protesters’ legal team, Trump’s attorney said the president will “reject” the subpoena and won’t appear at the civil trial scheduled for March.
In court papers filed Wednesday, the activists preemptively asked a Bronx judge to compel Trump’s live courtroom testimony. The president and his fellow defendants, which include the Trump Organization, Trump’s campaign, and longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller, were served on Dec. 28, 2018, according to the court document.
“The jury in this matter deserves to hear the live testimony of Mr. Trump in resolving both the liability and damages phase of the trial,” Nathaniel K. Charny, one of the protesters’ lawyers, told The Daily Beast.
“If we had simply let Mr. Trump disobey the subpoena, we could have gotten certain remedies from the court, however, it would have meant the jury would never get to hear or see his live testimony, which we think is essential.”
Those statutory remedies could include sending the sheriff after Trump, should he flout a court order to testify. “The Bronx County Supreme Court is entitled to send the police to take him from his home and bring him to testify,” Charny quipped. “That federalist struggle, I doubt very much we’ll get to.”
In an email to The Daily Beast, Trump’s attorney Lawrence Rosen confirmed that the president would reject the subpoena: “We are in receipt of the Plaintiffs’ application to the court and legal position concerning the subpoena, with which we disagree, and will address these issues in our formal court filing, should one be necessary.”
On Jan. 11, Rosen sent a letter to the activists’ counsel, rejecting the subpoena as “null and void,” in part, because the plaintiffs failed to take Trump’s deposition during discovery. (Charny, in court papers, called the argument “frivolous” and stated “there is no such thing as waiving a party’s right to call witnesses to trial based on the scope of discovery.”)
Rosen also cited Clinton v. Jones, arguing the Supreme Court “allowed claims to proceed against a sitting President based on the assumption that the President would never have to actually appear in person at the trial, and that the plaintiff would instead arrange a pre-trial deposition at the White House…”
“Having declined to pursue a pre-trial deposition of President Trump … the Plaintiffs are precluded from now commanding his testimony at trial via subpoena at some future date in Bronx County,” Rosen wrote.
(It’s not the only time Clinton v. Jones was raised in claims against Trump. When Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter declined last year to dismiss Summer Zervos’ defamation suit against Trump, she cited the landmark case.)
Charny claims that during a hearing on Jan. 14, Rosen told him that Trump wouldn’t file a motion to quash the subpoena, that his letter rejecting the subpoena was sufficient, and again stated that Trump would not testify.
Benjamin Dictor, one of the protesters’ attorneys, told The Daily Beast that the trial subpoena is “self-enforcing” per New York law. “Since we have been told that he plans to disobey [the subpoena] we have filed court papers preemptively,” Dictor said, adding that “disobedience of a valid subpoena is in violation of New York law.”
The protesters’ case, Galicia v. Trump, stems from a September 2015 demonstration outside Trump headquarters. The activists claim Trump’s security guards—including former bodyguard Keith Schiller—roughed them up as they stood on a public sidewalk.
Two of the activists, Efrain Galicia and Johnny Garcia, were near a sidewalk planter as they protested the then-Republican candidate’s comments on Mexican immigrants. In one encounter alleged in the suit, Trump’s guards ripped away their “Make America Racist Again” banner. Galicia claims that when he tried to retrieve the sign, Schiller swung round and clocked him, and that moments later, another guard put him in a chokehold.
In August 2018, Bronx Supreme Court Judge Fernando Tapia denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit alleging assault and battery and destruction of property, ruling that there was sufficient evidence that Trump “authorized and condoned” the methods of his security team, which included Gary Uher and Edward Jon Deck, Jr.
“Defendants motion to dissociate the actions of Schiller, Uher, and Deck from Trump, his namesake company, and campaign as a matter of law is unavailing,” Tapia wrote in his decision. “To the contrary, plaintiffs raise ample issues of fact that contrary to moving defendants’ claims, tends to exhibit Trump’s dominion and control over Schiller, Uher and Deck.”
The lawsuit is one of dozens faced by the reality star-turned-commander in chief.