In 2022, it’s a full-time job keeping track of all the criminal investigations and civil suits facing Donald Trump. Luckily, today, we can cross one of them off the list: the 2015 lawsuit filed by a group of protesters who alleged they were assaulted by Trump’s security guards outside of Trump Tower. Y’know, the one that led to the revelation that the ex-president thinks it’s highly possible he could be killed by a piece of fruit. But more on the fruit later.
On Wednesday, Trump reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, just days after the case had gone to trial. The suit revolved around a September 2015 incident, in which a group protesting comments Trump had made about Mexican immigrants while campaigning for president say they were assaulted outside of Trump Tower by his security guards. The plaintiffs said that the head of security allegedly punched one of the protesters in the head while trying to rip away a sign that read “Make America racist again” sign.
While Trump claimed in a February 2016 affidavit that he had no knowledge of the situation at the time, and only learned about it the next day, in May, his former fixer, Michael Cohen, said that was not the case. In a sworn deposition, Cohen claimed that he’d told Trump about the protesters that day, at which point the then presidential candidate allegedly told his head of security, Keith Schiller, “Get rid of them.” When he returned, Schiller, according to Cohen, told Trump: “I took the sign. He grabbed me, so I hit him across the side of the head,” to which Trump allegedly responded, “Good.” In his own deposition last year, Trump maintained that he “didn’t know about” what happened but also that Schiller “did nothing wrong.” Which brings us to the bit about the former president and his apparent fear of flying fruit.
During that testimony, the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked why Trump, at a 2016 rally, told attendees, “If you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, just knock the crap out of them, would you?” Trump testified that he and his security detail were on high alert that someone was “going to throw fruit.” “You get hit with fruit, it’s—no, it’s very violent stuff. We were on alert for that,” Trump said. “It’s worse than tomato, it’s other things also. But tomato, when they start doing that stuff, it’s very dangerous. There was an alert out that day.”
Then Trump testified that yes, it would be his expectation that if one of his security guards saw someone about to throw a tomato, they should knock the crap out of them, adding that other fruits would necessitate a beating too. “A tomato, a pineapple, a lot of other things they throw,” he said. “Yeah, if the security saw that, I would say you have to…I think that they have to be aggressive in stopping that from happening. Because if that happens, you can be killed if that happens…. It’s dangerous stuff.” Relatedly, during his May deposition, Cohen revealed that his old boss frequently obsessed over a 1998 incident in which Bill Gates was hit with a pie while walking into a building, and obsessed over the idea that the same fate would befall him. “For some reason that upset Mr. Trump terribly. We were all instructed that if somebody was to ever throw anything at him, that if that person didn’t end up in the hospital, we’d all be fired,” Cohen said.
On Wednesday Benjamin Dictor, an attorney for the protesters, said that the lawsuit “was resolved on terms that they are very, very happy with.” A separate statement, signed by the plaintiffs and Trump attorney Alina Habba, noted that “all people…have a right to engage in peaceful protest on public sidewalks.”
It’s not clear why Trump chose to settle, but it’s possible he was worried about how much money he was going to have to pay out, particularly in light of where the trial was taking place. As Randolph McLaughlin, a Pace University law school professor, told The Guardian just before jury selection kicked off: “Bronx juries, they engage in Robinhood-ism. They take from the rich and give to the rest of us—their verdicts are always generally right at the ceiling. There’s no limit in the Bronx. They love to give money to the people. Donald Trump, as much as he is loved in certain corners of the country, he is not loved in the Bronx.”