Should Trump’s campaign tweets be evidence in Trump University trial?

With the Trump University lawsuit trial slated to begin at the end of the month, his lawyers are arguing that any campaign rhetoric – including tweets – should be excluded from the proceedings.

Bebeto Matthews/AP/File
Donald Trump listens as Michael Sexton introduces him at a 2005 news conference in New York where he announced the establishment of Trump University.

Just weeks after the presidential election comes to a close, Donald Trump might find himself facing his own words from the campaign trail in a courtroom.

Former students of the real estate mogul’s for-profit university have brought a class-action lawsuit against the now-defunct institution, alleging that Trump University misled and defrauded students for financial gain. Their lawyers argue that statements Mr. Trump made as the Republican nominee, including advertisements, speeches, and tweets, should be admissible in court. His lawyers have countered that point by arguing that those statements have no relevance to the lawsuit and will be evaluated by voters at the polls on Nov. 8.

The battle centers around the debate as to whether using the words would politicize the trial, or if blocking them would allow Trump to use his status as the Republican nominee for president to hide from relevant public statements.

"Trump wants to rig the deck by hiding from the jury his own words," the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote. "Donald Trump's dizzying array of objectively false, contradictory, and self-defeating statements have left him so flummoxed he is demanding that the Court create a new category of immunity to protect him from himself."

A main point of contention in the suit alleges that Trump University lied when claiming that Trump personally selected the school’s instructors, as he later said he did not know many of them. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that such information is vital to the case and cannot be ignored simply because it was made while Trump was a political figure.

They also argue that his recent comments on the suit could be of importance to a jury.

While campaigning, Trump referred to Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge presiding over the suit, as a "hater of Donald Trump." Trump also questioned the judge's ability to act fairly during the proceedings because he is the son of Mexican immigrants and could oppose Trump’s plan to build a border wall, tweeting that the judge is “totally biased against me.”

Trump’s lawyers are seeking to exclude all campaign statements, and have also filed a motion to block a CNN interview with former Trump University instructor James Harris. In it, Mr. Harris says his primary job was to encourage students to sign up for costly real estate seminars rather than to teach them about real estate.

The trial is set to begin Nov. 28, and both the plaintiffs and defense plan to call Trump to the stand as a witness. While his attorneys argue that the use of campaign rhetoric will carry “an immediate and irreparable danger of extreme and irremediable prejudice," the plaintiffs maintain that they have no intention to turn the suit into a political debate.

"As they have demonstrated throughout this litigation, plaintiffs have no desire to politicize this case,” they wrote. “On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly done so."

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