Trump Twitter Tirades Prompt Litigants to Seek Anonymity in Suit

(Bloomberg) -- Four people who sued Donald Trump and his three eldest children for fraud told a judge that the president’s penchant for shredding critics on Twitter justifies letting them stay anonymous to avoid retaliation.

They cited the recent mail-bombs sent to Trump’s political opponents and critics, and threats against U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers during his confirmation process. Those past targets were often attacked by Trump on Twitter, where he has 56 million followers, which the plaintiffs claim would put them in danger if their names are made public.

Trump "has a documented history of wielding his wealth, stature, and Twitter account to attack people whom he perceives to be his enemies, including people who file lawsuits against him," the plaintiffs said in a recent court filing. "In this volatile climate, those who sue President Trump over sensitive subjects face a clear and present danger of retaliation."

A lawyer for Trump, challenging the request for anonymity in a Nov. 30 filing, called the lawsuit a "far-fetched and vituperative attack on the President of the United States and his family."

The plaintiffs, who also seek to represent others in their position, claim the Trumps scammed thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs by promoting two bogus multi-level marketing ventures and a dubious live-seminar program that purported to tell Trump’s "secrets to success" in the real estate world.

The Trump Organization previously said the suit, filed Oct. 29, was planned by activist lawyers and timed just before the midterm election for partisan advantage.

U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan will rule on the plaintiffs’ request for anonymity before the fraud and racketeering suit proceeds.

The four people claim they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because the products went bust. The plaintiffs are a hospice worker, a self-employed formerly homeless man, a food delivery driver and a mother of three who works at a retail store, according to court documents. They’re currently using the aliases Jane Doe, Luke Loe, Richard Roe, and Mary Moe.

The suit threatens to renew attention on Trump’s lucrative private business practices in the multi-level marketing and live-seminar industries just as federal investigators are scrutinizing his real-estate ventures in Russia during the 2016 election.

The plaintiffs’ fear of retaliation is based on "rabid speculation," the Trumps said in their response. Using aliases would violate First Amendment principles and be "inherently unfair to defendants," they said.

"Plaintiffs have literally submitted no evidence to support their claims of risk to themselves," the Trumps said.

The president and his children also said the plaintiffs have an outsize view of the importance of their case, noting the president never tweeted about it.

"Plaintiffs grossly exaggerate the importance of their lawsuit when they compare themselves to a participant in Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process whose name became a household word in this country and who appeared live on television in a proceeding watched by millions around the world," they said.

"There is nothing about plaintiffs or their lawsuit that should excite anyone."

The lawsuit is Doe et al. v. Trump Corp. et al., 18-cv-9936, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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