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Trump set for deposition just weeks before inauguration



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  • Trump set for deposition just weeks before inauguration

    President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to testify under oath at Trump Tower in January, just weeks before the inauguration, in a lawsuits tied to his Washington D.C. hotel. His lawyers are battling over special conditions Trump is seeking because of his new position.

    The deposition is tied to Trump's $10 million lawsuit in the District of Columbia against Topo Atrio, the restaurant that was to be run by celebrity chef José Andrés in the hotel Trump has developed in the Old Post Office building just down the street from the White House. Andrés and the company cancelled the deal after Trump’s presidential campaign announcement in June 2015, saying the candidate's rhetoric was “widely perceived as anti-Hispanic.” Trump sued Andrés and another famed chef who made a similar decision, citing breach of their contracts.

    The parties in the 2015 lawsuit had previously agreed that the upcoming deposition would be held the first week of January in Washington. Last week, however, Trump’s attorney’s emailed the restaurant group saying that they disagreed with the length of the deposition — up to seven hours — as well as that the questions that could overlap with a previous deposition. Trump's team also objected to the location in Washington.

    Trump’s attorneys argue the deposition needs to take place at Trump Tower in New York City, for “security reasons" in their request to the opposing lawyers. Monday, Trump's top lawyer also cited cost and convenience for the President-elect.

    President-elect Donald Trump and retired Marine general John Kelly in Bedminster Township, N.J., on Nov. 20, 2016. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

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    While the restaurant group agreed to relocate the deposition in a filing last week, they protested about the time and topic limits.

    “It seems dubious that the President-elect cannot be afforded adequate security in the capital of the United States, but Defendants are willing to accommodate that demand,” Andrés’ attorneys wrote to D.C. Superior Judge Jennifer A. Di Toro. “Defendants cannot, however, accept Trump LLC’s attempt to hamstring Defendants’ questioning of the man who directed the bringing of this lawsuit.”

    Given the deposition is just weeks away, the restaurant group asked a D.C. judge for an expedited decision requiring Trump comply with the deposition rules.

    “We think the deposition is completely unnecessary. We don’t think there’s any factual dispute that requires the President-elect’s testimony, so we think it’s unneeded,” said Alan Garten, general counsel for Trump and his business interests. “So we asked for there to be some reasonable limits. We don’t think it’s necessary, the issues that concern the President-elect are statements he made at the commencement of the campaign. There’s no dispute about them. So we don’t see what a deposition would accomplish.”

    Trump was previously deposed this summer in a parallel lawsuit filed against CZ-National, another restaurant group headed by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian. After failing to convince a judge the videotaped deposition should be sealed, it was released in September to media outlets.

    The battles over the restaurant at Trump’s luxury D.C. hotel are among several outstanding legal entanglements. He had at least 75 pending on Election Day, civil lawsuits that will not go away after Inauguration Day.

    Also pending are cases brought by a Republican political consultant who said Trump defamed her; a class-action claiming his presidential campaign broke consumer protection laws by sending unsolicited text messages to people’s cellphones; and a suit by a golf club employee who says she was fired over complaining to her bosses about sexual harassment.

    A U.S. District Court judge in Florida ruled last week that a suit against Trump’s golf course in Jupiter could continue — despite another attempt by Trump to get it tossed before he takes the oath of office.

    Trump settled the Trump University lawsuits just days after the election for about $25 million to avoid the public trial that was scheduled to begin at the end of November.

    On the campaign trail, in recent months, Trump threatened additional lawsuits against journalists and several women who publicly accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances. Trump eased up on those threats in the waning days of the campaign.

    Some of the open lawsuits create potential conflict of interest for the President-elect, according to legal experts, presidential historians and others interviewed by USA TODAY during a months-long investigation that tracked more than 4,000 lawsuits involving Trump and his companies.

    Trump’s attorneys have previously said that only a couple dozen of the active cases are significant and that they’ll deal with those as any large company deals with them.

    Asked Monday if there were other depositions or lawsuit resolutions coming before the inauguration, Garten said, "Not that I know of."