Trump says in deposition ‘illegal immigrants’ remarks might help business

(WASHINGTON) — Video could soon be made public that shows Donald Trump’s being questioned under oath in a legal case stemming from his suggesting that undocumented immigrants from Mexico were criminals and “rapists.”

The presidential candidate and New York real estate mogul was ordered to sit for a formal, taped deposition in June after suing celebrity chef and TV star Geoffrey Zakarian, who backed out of a restaurant venture in Washington, D.C., following Trump’s fiery rhetoric on the campaign trail.

In a transcript of the deposition video obtained by ABC News, the Republican nominee claims his comments about immigration, among other issues, could have helped, not hurt, Zakarian’s restaurant prospects.

“If he had the restaurant, it would be helped,” Trump said responding to questioning. “I’ve tapped into something. And I’ve tapped into illegal immigration.”

Trump argued that the chef had wrongfully backed out of the business deal by arguing that his position on immigration was long-standing.

“And I’ve been saying these things for years. I’ve been very consistent. I’ve been saying them from before he signed the lease,” Trump said.

In the latest development in the case, a D.C. trial court judge denied requests by Trump’s lawyers to keep the footage of his being questioned for the deposition sealed.

The controversy and lawsuit began over a year ago, almost immediately after the launch of the businessman’s presidential campaign. As Trump announced his bid for the White House, he also set off a firestorm by the comments about Mexicans.

Zakarian quickly denounced the remarks and publicly announced he was backing out of the planned project with a development group owned by Trump to open a restaurant in his new Washington hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion. Trump’s team sued the chef last year and sought $10 million in damages.

Zakarian has filed a counterclaim on the basis that Trump’s comments represented a “breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

During a series of questions from opposing counsel, according to the deposition transcripts, Trump acknowledged that Hispanic customers could be turned off by his comments and that restaurateur Zakarian may have genuinely believed Trump’s rhetoric would make it harder to hire staff and attract patrons.

“Do you think that there are some Hispanic patrons who would be less likely to patronize any restaurant in any of your hotels or any of your properties?” an attorney in the case asked Trump.

“It is always possible,” he replied, but again held out the possibility that his candidacy could attract business, too, and claimed that has happened at other Trump properties.

During the exchange, Trump credited his position on illegal immigration with “[leading] to my nomination in a major party in the country.”

When making the determination not to seal the taped deposition, D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian F. Holeman weighed that fact that, as his opinion last week stated, “public interest is heightened in an action involving a candidate seeking public office.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up