In his order requiring Donald Trump to release a thousand pages of internal documents pertaining to his now-defunct real estate university, a federal judge said the documents should be public because Trump is contending for the highest office.
“[The] Defendant became the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race, and has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue,” wrote US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego. Mr. Curiel referred to a previous case to state that in deciding public disclosure courts must weigh “whether a party benefitting from the order of confidentiality is a public entity or official; and ... whether the case involves issues important to the public,” reported The Washington Post.
By Thursday, Trump must release the documents, which include “playbooks” that advised sales personnel how to market Trump University. The trial is set for November, the same month as the presidential election.
In his order, Curiel did not agree with Trump’s attorneys that the documents contained “trade secrets.” Rather, the judge’s order alludes to the importance of the public knowing everything about their representatives. While Trump has been criticized for dodging public scrutiny because he has not held office before, past presidential candidates have been on the losing end of this debate, as their personal lives (including their infidelities) have become public record.
The documents are part of two class-action lawsuits two former students brought against Trump, calling the school a scam, as well as a third, $40-million suit by the New York Attorney General, which accuses the company of operating an unlicensed university. The lawsuit Curiel is presiding over in San Diego “states that Trump University’s nationwide seminars and classes were like infomercials and pressured students to buy more but didn’t deliver as promised in spite of students paying as much as $35,000 for seminars,” wrote the Associated Press.
The documents were originally sealed. However, The Washington Post disputed this in April because “Trump’s pursuit of the presidency made his business dealings a matter of public interest and that an inactive company had no compelling reason to maintain secrecy,” wrote the Post Saturday, when it reported Curiel ordered the document release. Following the order, Trump wasted no time trashing Curiel and his Hispanic heritage while the nominee stumped in San Diego and Fresno.
“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel. \... I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself,” Trump said, according to Politico. “I’m telling you, this court system, judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel. Because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, OK?"
Although Trump said Curiel and the legal system are after him, his Republican opponents had demanded that the university and Trump in general be scrutinized more.
President Obama, who knows firsthand about presidential life, had this message for reporters earlier this month.
"This is a contest for the presidency of the United States. What that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny," said Obama.