NEW YORK — A Bronx trial judge on Friday ordered President Donald Trump to provide videotaped testimony for an upcoming trial over a lawsuit brought by protesters who say that his private security guards assaulted them on a public sidewalk in front of Trump Tower and stole a protest sign.
The ruling raises the highly unusual constitutional spectacle of a state-level judge commanding a sitting president to testify for a trial against his will. But Justice Doris Gonzalez of the Bronx Supreme Court wrote that Trump’s testimony was necessary, rejecting a request by his legal team that she quash a subpoena. The trial is scheduled to start on Sept. 26.
“More than 200 years ago our founders sought to escape an oppressive, tyrannical governance in which absolute power vested with a monarch,” Gonzalez wrote. “A fear of the recurrence of tyranny birthed our three-branch government adorned with checks and balances.”
“No government official, including the executive, is above the law,” she added.
The dispute centers on a protest in September 2015 in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan, during Trump’s first presidential campaign. Five plaintiffs in the lawsuit were protesting in front of the building. Two were dressed in attire mimicking Ku Klux Klan robes. Others carried large campaign-style signs saying, “Make America Racist Again.”
In an ensuing confrontation, some parts of which were captured in videos, Trump’s private security detail inaccurately told the protesters that the sidewalk in front of Trump Tower was private property and tried to force them to move away from it.