WASHINGTON (AP) — A former paid worker for Donald Trump's presidential bid has accused the campaign's North Carolina state director of pointing a loaded pistol at him.
Vincent Bordini filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in a North Carolina court against the Trump campaign and recent state director Earl L. Phillip. The lawsuit alleges assault and battery, seeking monetary damages for emotional distress. Bordini, 41, also says Trump's national campaign leadership refused to address the February incident.
Wednesday's lawsuit — first reported by WBTV in Charlotte — says Bordini and Phillip were traveling by car in South Carolina when the campaign director suddenly pulled out a .45-caliber handgun, the safety off and his finger on the trigger, and pressed the barrel to the staffer's kneecap.
Phillip, 48, told The Associated Press Wednesday he had recently resigned as both state campaign director and as deputy chair of Trump's National Diversity Coalition. "I stepped down from ... all affiliations with Donald J. Trump until this is cleared up," said Phillip.
He referred further questions to his lawyer. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In his lawsuit, Bordini alleges Phillip also pulled his gun on at least four other people within the Trump organization. The behavior was so widely recognized within the campaign that others knew the caliber of his gun, the lawsuit says.
"Some described Phillip as initially calm. Then, he would brandish his weapon, put its barrel against their bodies or aim it at them," the lawsuit states. "He would wait for his victims to show fear and then calmly conceal his weapon again."
The lawsuit notes that others described witnessing Phillip "yelling and screaming in anger" while he brandished his gun.
Bordini "felt he could not tell anyone about the incident due to Phillip's reputation for violent outbursts, intimidation and retaliation," according to his lawsuit.
The aide was so fearful Phillip might retaliate against him for reporting the February incident within the campaign, Bordini temporarily moved his family out of their house so they would be harder to find, the lawsuit says. Bordini, described as a "passionate" Trump supporter, says he didn't report the incident to law enforcement or go to the media because he didn't want to hurt the Republican nominee's chances of becoming president.
"Vincent forewent alerting authorities because putting Mr. Trump in the White House was his goal. But enough is enough," the lawsuit states. "Guns don't have to fire to inflict damage. Vincent couldn't sleep after the incident. If Phillip had flinched, Vincent might have never been able to properly walk again."
As a candidate, Trump has been an outspoken supporter of the constitutional right to bear arms. He has a permit in New York to carry a concealed handgun.
Trump generated a firestorm Tuesday when, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, he suggested Second Amendment advocates might find a way to stop Hillary Clinton from rolling back gun rights if she's elected. Within minutes, Clinton's campaign denounced the celebrity businessman's remarks as an attempt to incite violence against his Democratic rival.
Phillip's attorney, William Harding of Charlotte, said his client is a law-abiding citizen.
"He has never, never been accused or convicted of any criminal activity," Harding said. "We look forward to defending this lawsuit and filing the appropriate counterclaims, including defamation of character."
Harding suggested the timing of the lawsuit, coming the day after Trump's loaded remarks, appeared politically motivated.
Phillip became the campaign's North Carolina state director in November. Since then, the Trump campaign has paid Phillip's consulting business, Innovative Consulting Services, nearly $65,000 for campaign field consulting. Those payments include about $9,500 in late June, federal filings show.
Before going to work for the Trump campaign, Phillip served as the North Carolina African-American State Director for the Republican National Committee. He was also appointed by North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, to a state board that helps oversee the finances of local governments.
In a 2014 speech, Phillip was quoted as saying he did not believe President Barack Obama was either a Christian or an American citizen — and disputed whether Obama qualified as a true African-American. Phillip also frequently takes aim at Democrats through social media, this week retweeting a faked photo of Clinton wearing a Muslim headscarf made of an American flag.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Bordini was on the Trump campaign payroll from December through February, earning about $1,000 every two weeks. The campaign last paid him in mid-March, when he was reimbursed for travel expenses.
The lawsuit says Bordini resigned from the campaign in March.
"Vincent became disgusted with the Trump campaign's lack of corrective action," the lawsuit states. "He could no longer tolerate working in an environment where his superior could pull a gun on him at any moment."
Associated Press writers Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Chad Day in Washington contributed to this report.
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