Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump asked a federal judge to postpone a class-action fraud lawsuit against him until after his January inauguration.
In a motion filed Saturday in San Diego, Trump's attorneys argued that going forward with a trial on Nov. 28 -- the scheduled start date -- would cause a major distraction from Trump's "all-consuming" task of preparing to take over the country, according to Politico.
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. We acknowledge 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 to allow the President-Elect to devote all his time and attention to the transition process.
The attorneys styled their request as "a modest continuance," and not an indefinite postponement of the trial. As Politico noted, there's already precedent for lawsuits going forward against sitting presidents, stemming from former President Bill Clinton's second term, when he was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit in 1997.
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Trump's lawyers also asked the court to allow the businessman-turned-politician to testify in two Trump University-related trials against him in one shot. They asked the court to grant permission for the president-elect to testify once in a recorded session, with that testimony to be used in both trials related to the now-defunct, for-profit business course.
Trump University was founded by Trump and two business partners, Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny, in 2004. The unaccredited school promised to instruct would-be entrepreneurs in Trump's methods of making money off the real estate market.
But according to a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Trump University shouldn't have been called a university in the first place, since only accredited universities can use the term in New York. Schneiderman accused Trump and his associates of fraud, The New Yorker reported, and of misrepresenting its curriculum and value by claiming to offer "graduate programs, post-graduate programs and doctorate programs."
The embattled seminar program was also further hurt by testimony from some of its own former employees, including one who said under oath that Trump University "was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possibly could.” Those seminars ranged in price from about $1,500 to $35,000, and some former employees testified that they aggressively pushed the most expensive seminars on students.
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Although Trump himself has said in interviews that he won't settle the lawsuits, a Nov. 13 report in the New York Daily News said the president-elect's attorneys have been working toward a "global settlement" that would end all three lawsuits -- the two class-action suits and Schneiderman's suit.
An attorney quoted by the newspaper said the circumstances of the case, with a president-elect as the defendant, makes it unique among fraud lawsuits.
“By the eve of trial, class action defendants face significant pressure to settle and as a practical matter most of them do,” said Nathaniel Kritzer of Kirkland & Ellis. “But obviously this case is unique as a class action against the President-elect, so it’s uncharted territory and the usual dynamic might not apply.”