(Bloomberg) — Former President Donald Trump and investors who sued him for fraud are sparring over a deposition the former president is scheduled to take in hurricane-ravaged Florida Friday in a class-action lawsuit.
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A lawyer for the investors told a judge that Trump is refusing to delay the deposition at his Mar-a-Lago estate despite Hurricane Ian bearing down on the region. But Trump’s lawyers blame the plaintiffs’ lawyers, saying they’re the ones who refused to postpone the questioning of the former president despite the storm.
Trump, his company and his three oldest children were sued in 2018 by four investors who claim they were duped into paying thousands of dollars to become independent sellers with ACN Opportunity LLC, which sold a doomed videophone device that the Trumps touted as the next big thing but which was rendered obsolete by smartphones.
In a letter to the judge Wednesday, the investors’ lawyer Roberta Kaplan said she offered to reschedule the deposition or move it from Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because of the Category 4 storm. But Trump’s lawyers refused, she said.
“We do not believe that is prudent or safe, and we have been unable to obtain defendants’ agreement to reschedule (or relocate) the deposition,” Kaplan said in the letter, which seeks to extend a Friday deadline for completing the deposition.
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Trump’s lawyers responded in a blistering letter later Wednesday, contradicting Kaplan.
“We thought it absolutely absurd to travel from the New York area to West Palm Beach in the middle of a hurricane and would have been pleased to reschedule the deposition to another date, but plaintiffs insisted that it proceed,” Clifford S. Robert wrote.
Robert said three of Trump’s lawyers, including Alina Habba, flew to Florida, only to find out Wednesday the plaintiffs sought to reschedule the deposition.
“Plaintiffs attempt to convey to the public the false impression that it is defendants who are being unreasonable, when there is little doubt that had defendants sought to cancel the deposition plaintiffs would have claimed that President Trump was refusing to appear,” Robert said.
He proposed holding the deposition by Zoom, “for the safety and security of all parties.” Kaplan rejected the proposal in a follow-up letter.
“We have more than 70 documents and 20 video clips we plan to or may use,” she told the judge, adding that made a deposition by Zoom unworkable.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers, Florida, Wednesday afternoon but threatens almost the entire state with high winds, floods and power outages. “This is going to be a tragic event,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a briefing as the storm approached.
“More than half the flights into and out of Palm Beach airport today have been cancelled, and our airline sent us an advisory this afternoon indicating that we should expect cancellations and/or significant delays tomorrow,” Kaplan said in her letter.
According to the suit, the Trumps, who promoted ACN on “Celebrity Apprentice,” lied about their faith in its products and also failed to disclose they were being paid to promote the company. Trump himself also starred in promotional videos and appeared in-person at events for the company.
He told recruits that the “tremendous” phones, which required ACN internet service to work, were doing “half-a-billion dollars’ worth of sales a year,” and that ACN was “at the forefront of innovation,” according to the complaint. The plaintiffs argue those claims were “abjectly false.”
The case is McKoy v. Trump Corp., 18-CV-9936, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Updates with Kaplan’s rejection of zoom call)
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