Long-lost court documents detailing President Trump’s alleged use of undocumented labor to pave the way for Trump Tower have been found — and could soon be unsealed.
The transcript and court brief were part of a lawsuit filed in 1983 by a union worker alleging that Trump — long before he moved into the White House — exploited undocumented Polish workers who demolished the building where Trump Tower now stands.
The transcript and brief, which detail the terms of a confidential 1998 settlement ending the case before it went to trial, were thought to have been lost.
But last week Lewis Steel, a lawyer on the long-dormant case, wrote Manhattan Federal Judge Loretta Preska that his colleague Wendy Sloan had found the papers. “She has the missing transcript and brief,” Steel wrote. “Ms. Sloan informs me that at all times these documents have remained in her possession and that she kept them confidential.”
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Sloan, who was also an attorney on the case, is no longer practicing law.
Time magazine and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had sought the release of the papers.
Last month, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned an earlier order keeping documents in the case secret.
“Certain types of documents should be publicly available,” the three-judge panel wrote.
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The seven-page order revealed that some of the paperwork that would be most illuminating was thought lost. “Two of the documents the press organizations seek — the transcript and the brief — have been destroyed pursuant to the Southern District of New York’s standard document retention policies,” the order read.
Steel and Sloan then did a search of their files and discovered the paperwork. “We know of no privacy reason why these documents should not be unsealed,” Steel wrote.
A lower court judge must officially unseal the documents before they can be made public.
Last year, Time published an article, “What Donald Trump Knew About Undocumented Workers at His Signature Tower,” that cited documents from the case alleging that Trump was well aware that the Polish workers were complaining of unsafe conditions at the job site and unfair wages.
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Workers even charged that Trump had threatened to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service and have them deported as the fight heated up.
Trump has long denied knowingly using undocumented workers on the job.
“I hire a contractor. The contractor then hires the subcontractor,” he said during last year’s presidential campaign. “They have people. I don’t know. I don’t remember, that was so many years ago, 35 years ago.”
A cornerstone of Trump’s “America First” presidential campaign was a vilification of undocumented immigrants.
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A lawyer for Time declined to comment and other attorneys on the case did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, the Reporters Committee said, “Even though this class action was settled in 1999, there is substantial current public interest in knowing how it was resolved. . . . While we don’t know at this point exactly what is in the sealed documents, they should give the public much better insight into how this litigation was resolved.”
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