Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says his words shouldn’t always be taken at face value because sometimes he’s just negotiating.
That’s his defense in a court fight with golfers who claim the billionaire real estate tycoon shafted them on membership dues at his Jupiter golf club.
A scheduled three-day trial got under way in West Palm Beach, Florida, Monday with a video deposition from Trump explaining why he told members who resigned that they would no longer be allowed to use any of the facilities at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, although their contract said they could until they were paid back their deposits.
“The letter said that, yes,” Trump said in the video, played to the judge. Later in the deposition he said: “It’s called negotiation.”
The dispute is one of several lawsuits Trump’s embroiled in as he crisscrosses the country in a bid to garner voters in November’s national election. Former students sued him in New York and California claiming they were cheated with false promises into paying as much as $35,000 for real-estate seminars and workshops. New York’s attorney general has also sued, calling Trump University “straight up fraud.”
Last week, Trump resolved another case, settling with former campaign consultant Sam Nunberg, whom the presidential candidate accused of leaking information to the media.
The former members sued the golf club to recover almost $5 million in deposits that they say should have been refunded when Trump changed the membership rules after buying the money-losing venture from Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. in 2012. They pointed to a letter they received from Trump.
“If you choose to remain on the resignation list, you’re out,” Trump wrote. “As the owner of the club, I do not want them to utilize the club nor do I want their dues.”
The club members who are suing were on a list to resign from the club, and were to receive a refund of their deposit, once new members joined. Under the Ritz-Carlton rules, they could continue to use the club until they received their refunds. They paid $35,000 to $210,000 in deposits.
The membership agreements required the club to refund deposits within 30 days and when Trump failed to do that, he breached the contract, Brad Edwards, attorney for the former members, said at the start of the trial.