Donald Trump Tries to Delay Fraud Trial
Lawyers for the president-elect are arguing he just doesn’t have time for that pesky lawsuit against him by former students of Trump University.
“The 69 days until inauguration are critical and all-consuming. President-Elect Trump must receive daily security briefings, make executive appointments (ultimately, thousands), and establish relationships with appointees, members of Congress, governors, and foreign leaders,” Trump’s lawyers argued a motion filed to a California federal court.
The case in dispute, Low v. Trump University, is a federal class-action lawsuit alleging consumer fraud and elder abuse against Trump University. The eponymous real-estate seminar program, former students complain, promised that Trump’s secrets—handed down by Trump’s "hand-picked" instructors—would make them rich. Instead, the former students say, Trump University was merely a scheme to bilk the poor, the naive, and the elderly out of tens of thousands of dollars, taught by hucksters who had never even met Donald Trump.
One of three separate lawsuits against Trump University, and one of 75 total pending legal actions involving the soon-to-be president, the case is scheduled to begin on November 28, six years after the initial complaint was filed in 2010. Several of the class members, including 74-year-old case namesake Sonny Low, are elderly. Regardless, on Saturday, Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to delay the trial to sometime after the presidential inauguration.
Concerning whether Trump might be equally absorbed in the duties of a sitting president after the inauguration, the lawyers claim he is not seeking to delay the case indefinitely, or even until the end of his term.
On Monday, lawyers for the students responded in opposition to Trump’s request to delay, writing in court papers, “This trial, like so many Trump University student-victims’ credit-card bills, is past due.”
“President-Elect Trump’s life is only going to get more complicated and unpredictable as time goes by,” they wrote. Additionally, they noted that Trump has already recorded 10 hours of sworn testimony on video and provided hundreds of pages of briefs and exhibits that represent his position.
The students’ lawyers argue that Low will turn 75 years old before the trial date and “has multiple medical issues.”
“Memories fade, people’s health degrades, and with each passing month, plaintiffs face a greater challenge,” they wrote.
This was not the first delay sought by Trump’s counsel. Trump has requested his trial date be moved to after the July Republican National Convention and later until after the election. The California judge overseeing this case, U.S. District Gonzalo Curiel agreed to the postponement, but denied a later request that the date be moved once again, this time because of a scheduling conflict involving one of Trump’s lawyers. “The Court has repeatedly accommodated Defendants’ requests with respect to scheduling trial,” Judge Curiel wrote in his denial.
Judge Curiel was pulled into the campaign when then presidential nominee Trump told two interviewers that the Trump University case against him was unfair, namely because Curiel's Mexican heritage (he was born in Indiana) supposedly made him prejudiced against Trump, who had promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Last week, Judge Curiel tentatively ruled against banning Trump’s statements, speeches, and tweets made during the campaign—including the remarks made about Curiel. He also decided Trump’s favorite defense of Trump University—evaluations showing a 98 percent student approval rate—would not be allowed at trial, explaining that initial satisfaction did not prove or disprove the whether Trump had misrepresented his seminars as a university and his salesmen as “handpicked” instructors.
"It would be wise,” Curiel said at last week’s hearing, “for the plaintiffs, for the defendants, to look closely at trying to resolve this case given all else that’s involved.”
Whether President-elect Trump will heed Curiel’s advice is yet to be seen. Trump has publicly railed against the Trump University plaintiffs and announced his refusal to settle. “I don’t settle lawsuits,” he told an Arkansas crowd in February. “Probably should have settled it, but I just can’t do that. Mentally I can’t do it. I’d rather spend a lot more money and fight it...Hey, would have been much easier if I settled. Would have probably been cheaper, but I don’t care.”