Media Demand Trump’s Video Depositions

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Donald Trump has failed to prove why his videotaped depositions in the Trump University litigation should be kept from the public, The New York Times, Washington Post and other news organizations told a federal court Wednesday.
     “This case presents a unique situation in which the public interest in transparency is extraordinarily strong,” Davis Wright Tremaine attorney Kelli Sager wrote for the media intervenors. “The allegations in this action and the litigation itself have become prominent campaign issues that relate to defendant Trump’s qualifications for becoming President of the United States. Defendants’ vague, unsubstantiated assertions of speculative harm if video of sworn testimony is publicly released cannot overcome the strong public interest in disclosure.”
     Joined by CNN, CBS and other media intervenors in the Art Cohen v Trump case, the news organizations seek release of 48 files from the Trump depositions.
     Trump’s attorneys claim the videotaped depositions contain “irrelevant, inadmissible and prejudicial” evidence that is duplicative of transcripts, portions of which are available.
     They also claim the release and likely wide dissemination of the clips could taint a jury pool in both cases.
     Low v. Trump, a simple false advertising case, is set for trial on Nov. 28, notably about three weeks after the election. Cohen v. Trump is more complicated in that it is a civil RICO class action.
     In both cases, plaintiffs say Trump deceived customers by claiming his business seminar was a university, that Trump was personally involved in selecting instructors, and that mentors would work closely with people who forked over as much as $35,000 or more for their advice.
     Attorney Jason Forge deposed Trump twice, in New York on Dec. 10, 2015 and on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas. The news organizations seek 32 video clips from the first deposition and 16 from the second.
     Trump has tried distance himself from the day-to-day running of the university, saying he delegated much of the hiring and administration to former Trump University president Michael Sexton.
     During the depositions, he also was asked why he wrote in a 2008 blog post that Hillary Clinton was smart, tough and would make a great president.
     Forge said use of the depositions is important to the plaintiffs’ case because it shows Trump’s body language, includes visual depictions of the exhibitions included in the depositions and includes off the cuff remarks made by Trump that are not included in the transcripts.
     Also, the transcripts are heavily redacted, and in many instances Trump begins explaining a crucial piece of his involvement with the university’s operation before the document inexplicably cuts off and jumps several pages to a new subject.
     The news organizations filed a motion to intervene and modify a protective order on June 10 and on June 15 filed an opposition to Trump’s motion to amend the protective order. The 26-page document they filed Wednesday is their consolidated reply in support of their previous motions. Briefly, they want a videotaped copy of the depositions to be uploaded and made public.
     Attorney Sager says the law is strongly on the side of public disclosure and the burden rests on Trump and his attorneys to prove why keeping the videos under seal is necessary.
     “Neither the facts nor evidence support defendants’ assertion that disclosure of video deposition testimony would interfere with their ability to get a fair trial,” Sager wrote. He added that Trump himself first brought up the litigation on the campaign trail, so claims that the video depositions would prompt “excessive media coverage” should be disregarded.
     “No prejudice can be shown by allowing the public to have access to more accurate information, nor can public access be limited by speculation about how the news media might present court records,” Sager wrote.
     Also, Trump is a public figure, so the litigation is of public concern.
     “Defendants have not presented any concrete facts or evidence justifying their request to keep all of the videos of the Trump depositions secret,” the news organizations say. “Instead, they make assertions about generalized harm ‘if releases of video depositions routinely occurred,’ and speculate that other witnesses in hypothetical future cases may be dissuaded from testifying if these videos are disclosed. But the Ninth Circuit has rejected this slippery-slope approach to evaluating public access to court records and proceedings, holding that such decisions ‘must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.’ …
     “Finally, defendant Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and the allegations in this case relate to his business record, which he has presented as his primary qualification for the nation’s highest elected office. Defendants also cannot dispute Trump’s extensive experience in dealing with the media. He chose to speak out about this case, which further reduces any purported interest in keeping these videos confidential.” (Citations omitted.)
     The newspapers’ motion cites rulings in 47 federal cases and appeals, the First Amendment, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
     The parties are tentatively slated to appear in court on July 13 to argue the matter.

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