On Thursday, lawyers for Donald Trump requested that the civil fraud suit against him and his for-profit real-estate seminar scheme be delayed until after his January inauguration. The trial is set to start in California district court on November 28.
The case is one of two class-action fraud suits filed in California by former customers of the real estate seminar program. The fake university is also facing criminal fraud charges in New York state. Students say they paid as much as $35,000 real estate investing “secrets” from Trump’s “hand-picked” instructors, only to discover the entire operation was a scam.
Trump’s lawyers argued that the trial in California should be postponed until after he has taken office. “We’re in uncharted territory,” Trump’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, reportedly told Judge Gonzalo Curiel. (Trump has called Curiel a “hater” and questioned his ability to be impartial, citing his Mexican heritage.) Speaking to reporters, Petrocelli called the case a “very difficult circumstance for a sitting president—more so, I would say, for a president-elect, because he’s turning, right now as we speak, to a mountain of challenges in front of him, to get himself up to speed.”
“This has been a gut-wrenching campaign, as everybody knows, and the nation is just beginning the long healing process,” he continued. “And I think the last thing we need right now is to have a trial about events that occurred six years ago or seven years ago, in which Mr. Trump—President-elect Trump—is a personal defendant in matters completely unrelated to the momentous obligations that he now needs to deal with.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Curiel did not seem receptive to Petrocelli’s arguments and said he intended to issue a ruling on Monday. Also on Thursday, Curiel ruled that statements Trump made on the campaign trail are admissible as evidence. “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Trump told supporters at a San Diego rally in May. “Okay? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”