Donald Trump wanted to keep this video deposition secret. We got a copy. - 2020-09-18
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump was burdened with lawsuits that accused him and his Trump University of defrauding students who had paid thousands of dollars to learn the supposed secrets of Trump's financial success. Though the Trump U controversy raised questions about Trump's fitness for office, he managed to score two legal victories in the case as it proceeded. He won a postponement in the trial until after Election Day, and he managed to seal the video of a six-hour deposition he gave in the case. That meant voters would not see news reports of Trump on the stand in a federal civil fraud case or be able to watch this footage of Trump being questioned concerning allegations of fraud. But Mother Jones has now obtained the full video of Trump's deposition, and though the written transcript of the session was released in June 2016, the video version includes several exchanges that likely would not have played well for Trump had they become public when he was chasing votes.
Trump sat for this deposition in Trump Tower on December 10, 2015. The video shows him parrying with the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jason Forge, over various issues, including false statements made by Trump University employees, and Trump's own memory. Trump at one point griped, "It's the most ridiculous lawsuit I've ever seen." He claimed not to remember having boasted that he possessed one of the best memories in the world and repeatedly said he could not recall matters related to the case. He downplayed false and misleading statements presented by Trump University instructors as merely "hyperbole," refusing to label them "false." He even disavowed a passage from one of his own books in which he had assailed educational institutions for committing "fraud." Had the video deposition been released during the campaign, it may have yielded ammo for anti-Trump ads. At the start of the deposition, Trump's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, said he and Trump did not want the transcript "getting into the hands of the media." Regarding the video, they succeeded.
Mother Jones was provided the video by a source who asked not to be identified. Art Cohen, a lead plaintiff in one of the lawsuits against Trump University and Trump, confirmed that this was the actual video of the deposition. "On this video, Trump's shifty memory and dishonest character are exposed when he is faced with questions that demand the truth," Cohen says. (Last month, Mother Jones posted video of a conversation that occurred during a break in these proceedings between Trump and Petrocelli, in which Trump boasted of threatening the Better Business Bureau to change the D grade it awarded Trump University to an A.)