Judge Warns President Trump He Is Not Above the Law, Orders Him to Testify in Civil Suit

President Donald J. Trump will have to sit for a deposition in a New York lawsuit against him and the Trump Organization over a violent encounter in 2015 between Mexican protesters and his employees, a state Supreme Court judge ruled on Friday.

Trump's lawyers had sought to quash a subpoena for the president's testimony related to an incident that occurred in the weeks following the launch of his presidential campaign. Protesters had gathered outside Trump Tower in Manhattan over multiple weekends after then-candidate Trump descended the golden escalators in June of 2015 to begin his campaign.

Enraged by his derogatory comments about Latinx people, the protesters held signs that read, for example, "TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA RACIST AGAIN."

During their third such demonstration, the lawsuit alleges, Keith Schiller, Trump's director of security, confiscated some of the protest signs and assaulted a demonstrator who tried to retrieve them.

"After being attacked by Schiller in front of so many witnesses and television cameras, I am afraid that Trump's security guards will continue to use violence to prevent us from demonstrating on the public sidewalk," the protester, Efrain Galicia, alleged in the civil complaint. "I am very concerned for my safety and the safety of my friends and fellow activists."

In her ruling on Friday, New York state Supreme Court Justice Doris M. Gonzalez appealed to concerns about the president's documented attempts to escape judicial oversight.

"More than 200 years ago our founders sought to escape an oppressive, tyrannical governance in which absolute power vested with a monarch. A fear of the recurrence of tyranny birthed our three-branch government adorned with checks and balance," she wrote. "Put more plainly, no government official, including the Executive, is above the law."

The Trump Tower protests were widely documented at the time, and several demonstrators came dressed in white robes with pointed hoods, a nod to the Ku Klux Klan's preferred garb. As long as protests aren't abusive of public safety, they are generally protected by the First Amendment.

Protesters had chosen to congregate on the sidewalk outside the building, which is public property and not subject to the Trump Organization's control. This fact had to be explained to Trump Organization representatives by police officers multiple times, according to the lawsuit.

President Trump Welcomes Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison To The Washington On State Visit
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are pictured ahead of a state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian First Lady Jennifer Morrison at the White House September 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump must sit for a deposition related to a 2015 lawsuit against him and the Trump Organization, a judge ruled on Friday. Zach Gibson/Getty

The skirmish apparently began after a protester lodged one of the signs by a concrete planter, which, although situated on the sidewalk, is still private property. That is when Galicia was allegedly accosted, setting of the dispute that led to his alleged assault by Schiller.

In response to a request for comment, Ben Dictor, one of the lawyers representing Galicia, told Newsweek that "the court was correct in its decision and it upheld the longstanding principle that no one is above the law and that a plaintiff is entitled to the trial testimony of an adverse party."

Lawyers representing Trump in the matter did not return a request for comment.

This story has been updated to include a statement from a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

Judge Warns President Trump He Is Not Above the Law, Orders Him to Testify in Civil Suit | U.S.
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