By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Donald Trump is scheduled to go on trial this month in a class-action lawsuit against him and his now-defunct Trump University, potentially taking the witness stand weeks before his inauguration as president of the United States.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born jurist who was accused of bias by Trump during the campaign for his Mexican heritage, will hold a hearing Thursday on jury instructions and what evidence to allow at trial, which begins Nov. 28.
Among the flurry of requests from both sides to be considered Thursday is a highly unusual petition by Trump’s attorneys to exclude any statements made by or about their client during the presidential campaign. The request would apply to Trump’s tweets, a video of Trump making sexually predatory comments about women, his tax history, revelations about his private charitable foundation and public criticisms about the judge in the case.
Trump’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, told the judge last month that evidence tied to the campaign would be irrelevant to the civil fraud case and may prejudice or inflame a jury, jeopardizing rights to a fair trial. He warned that allowing the jury to consider Trump’s remarks “carries an immediate and irreparable danger of extreme and irremediable prejudice to defendants, confusion of issues and waste of time.”
The lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of former customers alleges that Trump University, which was not accredited as a school, gave seminars and classes across the country that were like infomercials, pressuring people to spend up to $35,000 for mentorships and, in the end, failing on its promise to teach success in real estate. The claims mirror another class-action complaint in San Diego and a lawsuit in New York.
Petrocelli told reporters in May that Trump planned to attend most, if not all, of the trial and would testify.
“He has very, very strong feelings about this case,” Petrocelli said at the time.
At the May hearing, Petrocelli asked for a trial after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, but the judge raised concerns about distractions if Trump won the election. The attorney said the period between the election and swearing-in is extremely hectic for a president-elect but that it was preferable to holding a trial during the campaign.