A former staffer for Donald Trump’s campaign alleged in a lawsuit this week that a top aide in North Carolina pulled out a gun while the pair traveled together in February and held the loaded firearm to the staffer’s kneecap.
The 15-page lawsuit, filed Wednesday in North Carolina, was obtained and posted online by WBTV, a station in Charlotte. In the filing, Vincent Bordini claims Earl Phillip pulled the pistol on him as the pair traveled in South Carolina in February. At the time, Phillip was the campaign’s North Carolina state director, a position he has since ceded.
“All of a sudden, Vincent saw Phillip pull a gun out from his side of the jeep,” states the lawsuit, which names both Phillip and the Trump campaign as defendants. “It was a .45 caliber pistol. It was loaded. In fact, Phillip previously told Vincent that he keeps his guns loaded. Phillip held the gun in his right hand, the one closest to Vincent. Phillip’s index finger was on the trigger.”
After Phillip brandished the firearm, he moved it toward Bordini, the lawsuit alleges. Then, according to the court filing, he “pointed it at, and then placed its barrel” on Bordini’s kneecap. The pressure of the gun “crinkled Vincent’s blue jeans,” the lawsuit states, and Phillip “ominously stared sideways” at Bordini as he held the firearm.
“Once the initial shock wore off, Vincent said ‘What the f— are you doing?’ ” the lawsuit states. “Phillip put the gun away as if nothing had happened. Phillip drove on and didn’t talk about it again. Petrified, Vincent kept his mouth shut.”
Bordini reported the incident to other Trump staffers, the lawsuit claims, but Phillip wasn’t fired or suspended. The filing specifically notes that Bordini discussed the matter with a regional director in the state; Stuart Jolly, who served as the campaign’s national field director until April; and Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s national campaign manager until mid-June, when he was abruptly fired.
“Vincent was a passionate Donald J. Trump supporter,” the lawsuit reads. “He decided that putting his head down and soldiering on was the best thing that he could do for Mr. Trump. He had faith that the Trump Campaign would handle the situation internally. But as time went on it became apparent that this was not going to happen.
“Accordingly, Vincent now turns to this Court to hold the Trump Campaign and Phillip accountable for his harms and losses.”
Phillip told the Associated Press that he is no longer working for Trump’s bid, saying: “I stepped down from … all affiliations with Donald J. Trump until this is cleared up.”
Phillip “referred further questions to his lawyer,” the AP reported.
Phillip’s attorney, William H. Harding, told The Washington Post on Thursday that his client — whom he called a “devoted husband and father” — “emphatically denies” the allegations in the complaint.
“He has been and continues to be an outstanding citizen of North Carolina,” Harding said. “And it’s our position that these unfounded allegations will be refuted at the appropriate time.” Harding said his client plans to file a countersuit against Bordini.
“As a practical matter, I am dumbfounded by these allegations in that they allege that my client brandished a weapon against Mr. Bordini,” Harding said. “However, there is no criminal case pending, or ever a complaint made to any law enforcement officer or agency in North Carolina. Any reasonable person, when faced with these alleged allegations, would have promptly informed law enforcement and allowed our judicial system to prosecute the perpetrator.”
Harding suggested that the lawsuit was political, and said his client “looks forward to defending these allegations, unfounded allegations, in a court of law here in North Carolina.”
“If my client was not the director — head director for Donald J. Trump for the state of North Carolina, would he be dealing with this?” Harding said. “No.”
Earlier this month, Politico reported that Jason Simmons had “ostensibly taken over” for Phillip in North Carolina. Politico noted in its report that Phillip had already handed off daily duties to Taylor Playforth, a deputy.
Phillip “just had a difficulty relating to the grass-roots activists and did not share a lot of information,” a local activist close to the campaign told Politico. “Taylor was an excellent short-term answer but they needed someone with some more experience at this point in the campaign.”
Emails sent to the Trump campaign seeking comment were not immediately returned Thursday. Lewandowski and Jolly also did not respond to requests for comment. Bordini worked as a “software trainer” for the campaign, according to the documents.
“Simply put, Vincent experienced significant emotional distress after the incident,” the lawsuit states. “He had a gun pulled on him at work. As time went on, Vincent — and, upon information and belief, others — told people at the Campaign who could help them but they did not.”
The lawsuit — filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court — states that Bordini became “disgusted with the Trump Campaign’s lack of corrective action” and resigned in March.
The AP reported:
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.
“This was a difficult decision,” the lawsuit states. “Vincent was a long-time GOP operative. What’s more, he truly respected Mr. Trump and had every intention of dedicating himself to getting him elected in November. Vincent forewent alerting authorities because putting Mr. Trump in the White House was his goal. But enough is enough.”
The lawsuit indicates that similar incidents occurred with at least two other members of the Trump campaign — and possibly with others, as well.
“Vincent was not Phillip’s only victim,” it reads. “Upon information and belief, Phillip pulled his .45 caliber pistol on at least two other Campaign members. Vincent also learned about at least two other individuals outside the Trump Campaign who underwent similar trauma. Some described Phillip as initially calm. Then, he would brandish his weapon, put its barrel against their bodies or aim it at them. He would wait for his victims to show fear and then calmly conceal his weapon again. Others detailed something different. They described Phillip as yelling or screaming in anger while brandishing a pistol.”
It also claims that Bordini was fearful in the wake of the encounter.
“Vincent decided to move his family out of fear that Phillip would seek retribution against him,” stated the filing, which also noted that “guns don’t have to fire to inflict damage.” “He temporarily had them stay with a friend and an undisclosed location.”
Sean Herrmann, Bordini’s attorney, told The Post in a phone interview Thursday that the lack of action from the campaign prompted the suit.
“I think it goes back to what you see in the complaint,” he said. “He let people know and nothing happened. As the complaint says, as of the time of filing — which was yesterday — Mr. Phillip still worked for the campaign. He couldn’t sit back, he has some pretty significant harms and losses.”
Herrmann said that his client did not contact police after the alleged incident. He said that Bordini does not know whether he still supports Trump in this election.
“Honestly, he’s kind of a wreck,” Herrmann said, when asked about his client’s state. “That might be a little strong, but this was kind of a nightmare for him. He did not want to do this.”