Donald Trump’s lawyers are pushing to delay a class-action suit against him and his defunct for-profit university until after the president-elect is inaugurated on Jan. 20, a move plaintiffs are adamantly trying to block.
The motion, filed Saturday in San Diego federal court, argues that preparing to testify and appearing in court would distract Mr. Trump from his responsibilities leading up to taking over the presidency, and encourages the court to accept recorded depositions of Trump rather than an actual court appearance.
"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," wrote Trump attorneys Daniel Petrocelli, David Marroso, and David Kirman. "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."
Former students of the for-profit real estate university allege that Trump University misled and defrauded them, falsely advertising its offerings, and attached hefty price tags. Trump’s attorneys have continuously tried to get the case, or statements, delayed or thrown out of court, but so far, the trial remains slated to begin on Nov. 28.
Concerns about Trump’s readiness to transition to the White House have increasingly emerged since the president-elect met with President Obama last Thursday. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, Trump and his team seemed initially overwhelmed by what the process would entail.
“During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.
After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.”
While Trump’s lawyers say that they aren’t proposing postponing the now more than 6-year-old case until after the real estate mogul leaves office, they did cite past instances in which sitting presidents received accommodations from the courts that likely would not fall to other citizens: In 1990, President Ronald Reagan was allowed to give a video deposition in regard to the Iran-Contra-related trial of John Poindexter, who was national security adviser. Six years later, President Bill Clinton was granted a similar option when two of his business partners were put on trial for the Whitewater land deal, Politico reported.
Earlier this month, Trump’s lawyers sought to bar the use of his campaign trail rhetoric, including tweets, speeches, and advertisements, from entering the courtroom as evidence. Judge Gonzalo Curiel tentatively rejected that bid last week. He also said he may allow a video testimony from Trump, but encouraged the two sides to explore a settlement before resorting to a trial.
"It would be wise for the plaintiffs, for the defendants, to look closely at trying to resolve this case given all else that’s involved,” Judge Curiel said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.