Lawyers for former students suing Trump University argue Donald Trump’s statements on the campaign trail should be admissible in court and that the defense should not hide behind his status as the Republican nominee.
With the civil trial against Trump’s now-defunct for-profit real estate school scheduled to begin November 28 in San Diego, attorneys on both sides of the case have fought in recent weeks over what evidence will be permitted in court.
In October, Trump’s attorneys filed documents seeking to block all references to Trump’s campaign rhetoric – including his tweets, speeches and advertisements – as well as media reports about him published during the campaign on the grounds that such citations could unfairly sway the jury, but the plaintiff’s attorneys shot back in court filings Tuesday.
“Trump wants to rig the deck by hiding from the jury his own words,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote.
The lawyers who brought the class-action suit further argued Trump’s comments leading up to the primaries and general election have covered a wide array of topics, and that excluding all of this content would amount to broad immunity.
“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,” they wrote. “Trump’s representations, acts (or lack thereof), and credibility will be among the most important issues for the jury to determine.”
The plaintiff’s attorneys said they have no intentions to politicize the case, but they argued that instances in which they say Trump flip-flopped on issues relevant to Trump University are appropriate evidence at trial. They wrote in documents filed Tuesday that Trump has admitted he did not handpick instructors for the venture’s programs, a key point of contention in the case.
Lawyers for Trump argue that statements made during the election cycle by and about the Republican nominee have no relevance to the trial and that any reference to them “carries an immediate and irreparable danger of extreme and irremediable prejudice.”
They say the jury should judge those statements at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.
Trump has repeatedly mentioned Trump University litigation on the campaign trail, such as when he called federal judge Gonzalo Curiel a “hater” and questioned his ability to fairly preside over the class-action suit.
In May, Trump tweeted that Curiel is “totally biased against me” and said he should have easily won the case.
In a separate filing Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers sought to specifically block at trial the inclusion of a CNN interview with a former instructor, James Harris. Harris previously told CNN his main job wasn’t to teach real estate but was to convince people to sign up for the real estate seminars, some of which cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Trump University currently faces three civil lawsuits, including two class-action suits in California filed by former students and another brought by New York’s attorney general.