US Elections 2016, the day after: Transiting to the White House

Trump's lawyers head to court for fraud trial

Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump yesterday were due to head to court for a hearing pitting the future leader of the United States against a group of students who say they were defrauded by one of his businesses.
Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump yesterday were due to head to court for a hearing pitting the future leader of the United States against a group of students who say they were defrauded by one of his businesses.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump yesterday were due to head to court for a hearing pitting the future leader of the United States against a group of students who say they were defrauded by one of his businesses.

The 2010 lawsuit, one of three over the defunct Trump University venture, was filed on behalf of students who say they were lured by false promises to pay up to US$35,000 (S$49,000) to learn Mr Trump's real estate investing "secrets" from his "hand-picked" instructors. He owned 92 per cent of Trump University and had control over all major decisions, the students' court papers say.

Mr Trump denies the allegations and has argued that he relied on others to manage the business. The trial is scheduled to begin on Nov 28.

Mr Trump's attorneys will try to convince a San Diego federal judge that jurors should not hear about statements Mr Trump made during the campaign, including about the judge overseeing the case.

The President-elect attacked US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel as biased against him. He claimed the judge, born in Indiana but of Mexican descent, could not be impartial due to Mr Trump's pledge to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

Mr Trump's lawyers argue Judge Curiel should bar accusations about Mr Trump's personal conduct, including alleged sexual misconduct and comments about the case or court, from the trial, along with speeches, tweets, tax issues, the Donald J. Trump Foundation controversies, beauty pageants and bankruptcies. The lawyers also want to exclude evidence of instructors involved in bankruptcy proceedings, and the Better Business Bureau's ratings of Trump University, along with complaints it received. They argue the information is irrelevant to the jury and prejudicial to the case.

 

Lawyers for the students disagree. In court papers, they claim Mr Trump's statements would help jurors as they weigh his credibility and whether he and his venture were deceptive.

Judge Curiel is presiding over two cases against Mr Trump and the university. A separate lawsuit by New York's attorney-general is pending in that state.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's lawyers head to court for fraud trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe