Judge rules plaintiffs suing Trump over sham businesses can remain anonymous

A judge ruled Thursday that four people suing President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE and the Trump Organization regarding sham business schemes can remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

The plaintiffs argued that Trump has a “history of wielding his wealth, stature and Twitter account to attack people whom he perceives to be his enemies” and asked a judge to allow them to use pseudonyms, The New York Times reported.

Lorna G. Schofield of Federal District Court in Manhattan granted their request. The lawsuit names them only as Jane Doe, Luke Loe, Richard Roe and Mary Moe.

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“The manner in which the president has used his position and platform to affect the course of pending court cases is really without precedent,” Schofield said.

“Whether instigated by him or by his supporters, the harms at issue here are not hypothetical,” she continued. “They are real, significant and present an unwarranted obstacle to those who would seek to vindicate their rights in federal court.”

The plaintiffs may remain anonymous until she rules on the defense’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, at which time the plaintiffs could renew their request for confidentiality.

The lawyers for the defendants denied that the plaintiffs are at risk for revenge, the newspaper reported.

“Mr. Trump is, after all, the sitting president of the United States and when such scurrilous allegations are made against him in a publicly filed lawsuit, the public has a profound interest in knowing who is making the allegations, so that it can assess the accuracy of what is being alleged and inform itself as to the credibility of the accuser,” the lawyers wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the Trump Organization for comment. 

Four people filed a lawsuit in late October to accuse Trump and his three eldest children — Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDemocrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties Trump dismisses NYT explanation on Kavanaugh correction The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE, Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump awards Yankees legend Mariano Rivera the Medal of Freedom The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 2020 is not a family affair, for a change MORE and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Senior HUD official reprimanded for making political statements on the job Democrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties MORE — of deliberately enticing them to invest in companies in exchange of “large, secret payments” between 2005 and 2015. 

The three companies named were ACN Opportunity, a multilevel marketing company that provides telecommunications; The Trump Network, which sold an array of diet supplements and multivitamins; and The Trump Institute, a live-seminar program that purported to sell Trump’s "secrets to success," according the lawsuit.

Trump allegedly used his well-known name to promoted get-rich-quick tactics to vulnerable investors, promising legitimate business opportunities “to enrich themselves by systematically defrauding economically marginalized people.”

The four plaintiffs identify themselves in court documents obtained by The Times as a hospice worker, a self-employed formerly homeless man, a food delivery driver and a mother of three who works at a national retail store. 

“We are pleased that the court, recognizing the reasonableness of our clients’ fears of reprisal by defendants and their supporters, has permitted the plaintiffs to proceed under pseudonyms for the time being,”said Roberta Kaplan, a plaintiff’s lawyer.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization told The Times that the suit was “just another effort by opponents of the president to use the court system to advance a political agenda.”