Transcripts Show Defiant, Evasive Trump

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Donald Trump and his lawyers continue to fight disclosure of the videotaped copies of three depositions he gave in relation to two class action suits against Trump University.
     A more complete record of three depositions that took place between 2012 and January 2016 reveal a Trump that oscillates between defiance and evasion, and between attacking the lawyers seeking answers about his now-defunct real estate school and complimenting them.
     The plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Cohen v. Trump case argue the videotaped depositions must be considered because the transcripts do not show body language, facial expressions and “many spontaneous and ad hominem remarks that are not reflected in the paper transcript.”
     While Jason Forge and Rachel Jensen, the two attorneys representing the class, cite omissions of ad hominem remarks in the transcript, there are plenty of them included.
     “I think the lawsuit is trying to hurt the brand and I honestly look forward to winning this case and suing your law firm for as much as we can and we will be doing that,” Trump told Jensen during a deposition that took place in September 2012, according to the transcript.
     Jensen responded with an “OK,” to which Trump replied:
     “And you individually.”
     Later when Jensen, trying to ferret out Trump’s definition of a mentor, asked how he mentors his kids, Trump flared up.
     “These are ridiculous questions,” Trump said, according to the transcript. “You’re not getting at anything. You are just wasting a lot of time.”
     Trump’s ire was not restricted to Jensen either.
     Plaintiff attorney Jason Forge deposed Trump twice recently — Dec. 10, 2015 in New York and Jan. 21, 2016 in Las Vegas.
     At one point in the first deposition, Trump — clearly beleaguered by hours of questioning — asked Forge if he can wrap it up.
     “After all these hours, you can’t finish up?” Trump said. “I think it’s disgraceful.”
     Trump’s thinly veiled hostility pales in comparison to some of the fracases between Forge and Trump’s lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, who was present for the depositions and frequently objected to the line of questioning.
     Take the following exchange:
     Petrocelli: Take the mic off. Jason, don’t do that again. Don’t talk to my client.
     Forge: Dan, don’t wave your finger at me. Okay, buddy?
     Petrocelli: Don’t do that again.
     Forge: Don’t wave your finger at me. All right?
     Petrocelli: Don’t do that again.
     Forge: Do you understand?
     Petrocelli: You’re really an amateur. And, you two, stop snickering or I’m going to call it out on the record.
     Forge: Dan, I don’t know if your blood sugar got low or something, but you’re out of control right now.
     Temper flares and derogatory remarks aside, Forge and Jensen both successfully established that Trump did not personally interview any of the instructors or mentors who worked at Trump University from 2005 to 2010.
     Instead, Trump represented to the lawyers that he delegated almost all matters relating to the administration of the university to Michael Sexton, the former president.
     “I’m not saying I picked him, but Michael Sexton picked him and he is my arm,” Trump said at one point, often repeating that Sexton was essentially his stand-in.
     This is important because at the heart of both cases, Cohen and Low v. Trump, is a false advertising claim that Trump University’s assertion that the instructors and mentors were personally hand-selected by Trump himself turned out to be false and therefore deceptive.
     Trump does not dispute that he wasn’t involved with the selection of instructors, but instead claims phrases like “hand-selected” are innocent exaggerations common to the language of advertising.
     However, Trump appeared flustered when Forge played a videotape of an unnamed instructor claiming he recently had dinner with Trump and characterizing a part of the lesson plan as advice that was personally shared during that dinner.
     Trump admitted he did not have dinner with the man and that he would not have said such a thing, but dismissed the assertion as hyperbole.
     “A lot of people say they met with me and they were with me and all of that stuff,” he says. “It happens all the time. I think it’s hyperbole.”
     Many legal experts agree that the facts surrounding the case are unsavory, particularly as Trump University was billed as a university when in actuality it was a three-day business seminar that attendees paid around $2,000 to attend.
     During the seminars, which were often run by salespeople rather than real estate experts, attendees faced high-pressure sales techniques aimed at getting them to buy a Trump Gold Premium package, which cost $35,000.
     The package guaranteed a mentor would help students break into individual real estate markets, but the plaintiffs in both cases claim this mentorship never occurred as promised.
     However, the experts are not convinced the brouhaha necessarily means the plaintiffs are assured a victory.
     “The facts are not at what is at issue here; what is at issue is whether a reasonable person might rely upon these assertions to make a decision to purchase the product,” University of California-San Diego Law Professor Sean Martin said.
     The Cohen case in particular will be difficult to prove according to Martin and others, because it is a civil racketeering case, which means they have to go above and beyond proving a simple false advertising claim.
     Instead, the plaintiffs must prove Trump University was a corrupt organization engaged in a pattern of fraud, where the individuals running it knew what they were saying was false but did so anyway.
     “It’s harder to prove RICO cases,” David Levine, a law professor at University of California’s Hastings College of Law, said.
     It’s a fact Trump appeared to recognize.
     “It’s the most ridiculous lawsuit I’ve ever seen, I will say that, especially as a RICO lawsuit,” Trump told Forge at one point during the deposition. “But that’s okay. That’s up to you. You’ll see how we do.”
     But both Levine and Martin were quick to say the plaintiffs have a good, if not favorable position, even in the RICO case.
     “The court may well find that Trump University violated RICO,” Levine said. “It’s a pretty strong case just looking at the videos released and the papers released; it seems like the scams were perpetrated in similar ways.”
     If Cohen is to make it to trial, it must survive a summary judgment motion by Trump and his attorneys. The current fight is over whether to make the videotapes of the aforementioned depositions part of the evidentiary record.
     A slate of media companies, including the Washington Post and Fox News, has intervened, asking the tapes be disclosed to the public. A hearing on the matter is set for July 13.
     The Low case has already survived a motion for summary judgment and the trial is scheduled to get underway on November 28, after the general presidential election.
     While negative press continues to swirl around Trump University’s downfall, if Trump’s statements in the deposition are any indication he has few if any regrets. In fact, he defiantly stands by the school.
     “I thought it was something that was going to help people,” he said, according to the transcript. “I thought it was something where people could learn. They could for a relatively small amount of money, they could learn something or be good.”
     He added, “I thought it was something that would be very positive for a lot of people. And by the way, it was. We have many, many people who have written to us and that are going to be witnesses in the case that are saying they — they were thrilled by this. We have many, many people.
     “So I thought it was a very important thing to me, actually, the school.”
     

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