Trump Wants Fraud Trial Delayed Until After Inauguration
Donald Trump’s attorneys want the upcoming trial on Trump University postponed until after his swearing-in.
Attorneys filed a motion Saturday night in federal court in San Diego asking for the trial date to be continued from Nov. 28 to a date after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
They argue that such a postponement is most important for the president-elect because he must not be impeded from pursuing the arduous presidential transition.
“This is an unprecedented circumstance,” the attorneys said in their motion, which was first reported by Politico.
Trump University is the defunct, for-profit real estate school accused by former students of fraud. Trump remains at the center of three civil cases filed against his controversial education business venture, including the one scheduled for trial in San Diego on Nov. 28.
“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. He must also develop important policy priorities,” attorneys said.
“Now that the election is over, we submit that the president-elect should not be required to stand trial during the next two months while he prepares to assume the presidency. The time and attention to prepare and testify will take him away from imperative transition work at a critical time.”
The motion says the plaintiffs have “a right to trial of their claims, but their rights will not be abridged if trial were continued to a date after the inauguration.”
Trump isn’t “seeking to stay this case indefinitely,” but requests a “modest continuance” to after the inauguration, the motion said.
The lawyers also offered another recommendation: recorded testimony in January before the inauguration. It could be used for the Nov. 28 trial and another case expected to go to trial while Trump is the sitting president. The attorneys say they want to avoid Trump testifying on two separate occasions.
“In this way, the court minimizes the intrusion on the President-elect, preserves his trial testimony, and guarantees plaintiffs their day in court without regard to a sitting President’s unpredictable schedule,” the attorneys said.
Judge recommended parties settle
Just hours after Trump met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Thursday, lawyers for the President-elect appeared in court to prepare for the upcoming trial on Trump University.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel took a strong stance Thursday and recommended the parties settle the case to avoid the immense complications of a President-elect facing trial while preparing to take office.
“It would be wise for the plaintiffs, for defendants to look closely at trying to resolve this case given all else that is involved,” Curiel said.
But Trump has previously refused to settle the cases and has defended the quality of the real estate program, which enrolled about 10,000 students from 2005 until it closed in 2010.
“This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don’t settle cases very easily when I’m right,” Trump said in March.
However, Trump’s top lawyer on the case, Daniel Petrocelli, alluded to a possible settlement Thursday, noting the unique responsibilities his client now carries.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Petrocelli said. Later, he added at a press conference, “There are much more important obligations that President-elect Trump has and he will have to maybe be a little bit more flexible about the resolution of this case.”
Petrocelli said he would “chat” with Trump about the prospect of a settlement, even while referring to Trump’s desire to win the case outright.
In court, Petrocelli said he would soon file motions requesting to postpone the trial until after Trump’s inauguration. But Judge Curiel recently denied a previous effort by the defense to shift the trial.
A lawyer for the former students, Patrick Coughlin, pushed back against the defense’s desires to move the trial date and said Trump’s election should not affect the case.
“We don’t think it changes anything. He’s the president-elect. He’s not sitting in office,” Coughlin said.
Jury selection is set to begin at the end of November.