Trump may have to testify in fraud lawsuit trial during campaign
Having turned Mitt Romney, an extraordinarily kind and decent man, into an imaginary ogre in the minds of a sufficient number of voters, Democrat opposition research propagandists can hardly believe their luck in potentially facing Donald Trump. Add to their pile of must-use issues the possibility that in the midst of a campaign, Trump may be called to testify under oath in a lawsuit in which he is alleged to have defrauded thousands of individuals who ponied up large amounts of money to attend now-defunct Trump University lectures at hotel ballrooms.
Writing at Yahoo Politics, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff (heretofore famous for sitting on the Monica Lewinsky story when at Newsweek) explains:
This spring, just as the GOP nomination battle enters its final phase, frontrunner Donald Trump could be forced to take time out for some unwanted personal business: He’s due to take the witness stand in a federal courtroom in San Diego, where he is being accused of running a financial fraud.
In court filings last Friday, lawyers for both sides in a long-running civil lawsuit over the now defunct Trump University named Trump on their witness lists. That makes it all but certain that the reality-show star and international businessman will be forced to be grilled under oath over allegations in the lawsuit that he engaged in deceptive trade practices and scammed thousands of students who enrolled in his “university” courses in response to promises he would make them rich in the real estate market.
Although the case has been winding its way through the courts for the past five years — and Trump has denied all wrongdoing — the final pretrial conference is now slated for May 6, according to the latest pleadings in the case. No trial date has been set, but the judge has indicated his interest in moving the case forward, the pleadings show.
Isikoff makes much of the potential timing:
… the upcoming civil trial could be a much bigger burden on Trump’s time. If it takes place in May, that would put it in the middle of the final phase of the GOP primary schedule: Nebraska and West Virginia vote on May 10, Oregon on May 17, and Washington state on May 24. Then on June 7, the biggest prize of all: the California primary (with 172 delegates at stake). New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota vote the same day.
This strikes me as likely unrealistic. The trial may not take place directly after the pretrial conference. Trump has hired a new lead attorney, highly reputed litigator Daniel Petrocelli, and one thing the civil justice system is good at is delay. The case has already dragged out five years. And the trial promises to be complex:
… both sides have submitted lengthy witness lists: 72 individuals have been identified as prospective witnesses by the two sides. The case shows little sign of being settled. Trump just last December hired Petrocelli, a master litigator, and he recently identified 965 trial exhibits he expects to use at trial, including PowerPoint presentations, course curriculums, emails, letters, videos and other material. Picking jurors who have neutral views on Trump could present another time-consuming hurdle.
Indeed, finding a jury that does not have opinions on Trump in the midst of an election campaign could prove to be all but impossible.
But none of this would prevent oppo researchers from putting together weeping plaintiffs describing how they ran up credit card debt on the promise they would become welahty, cutting into videos of Trump’s promotion of the university, which, they would note, is not really a university and does not award degrees.
If Trump does win the nomination, we can expect a campaign of demonization unlike anything we have seen since the end of World War II. On the other hand, if Hillary is the Democrats' nominee, she has provided the oppo researchers with plenty of her own material. Twenty-sixteen could become a campaign like no other.