In a motion filed over the weekend, attorneys for US president-elect Donald Trump asked a judge (pdf) to postpone his civil fraud trial, citing the burdens of transitioning to the White House as a “political novice.” The trial was set to begin in 15 days.
Trump faces two different federal lawsuits from multiple participants in Trump University, a for-profit learning enterprise he marketed to students eager to learn his real estate secrets, including $1,500 weekend seminars and mentorship programs costing $35,000. In the lawsuits, students say they were deceived by false promises and did not profit from the course.
In the summer, Trump successfully requested that the trial, and his potential testimony, be postponed until after the election. Now that he has won, his attorneys are arguing that he is too busy to prepare for the trial, and that it should be delayed until after he takes office, writing that “the 69 days until inauguration are critical and all-consuming.” They also asked that Trump be allowed to submit his testimony through videotaped depositions, rather than in person.
The actual job of president is not likely to be accepted as an excuse for delaying a civil trial, after a precedent set by a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton that included his testimony and a settlement while he was in office. But lawsuits against the president-elect during the post-election, pre-inaugural period appear to be much rarer, with Trump’s lawyers only citing a Congressional statute that notes that a disrupted transition could be “detrimental to the safety and well-being of the United States.”
This has left Trump’s lawyers arguing for an exception by citing media reports about the breadth of work to be done in plotting the new administration’s first steps and all-important hires—including one story in Politico that refers to “the vast challenges a political novice will face in assuming the presidency.” According to his Twitter account, Trump apparently spent much of Sunday reading the New York Times.
The judge in this case is Gonzalo Curiel, who was attacked by Trump as biased because of his “Mexican heritage” during the 2016 campaign. (Judge Curiel was born in Indiana.) In a post-election hearing on Nov. 11, Curiel suggested he would not delay the trial further, but did urge a settlement, saying that “it would be wise for the plaintiffs, for the defendants, to look closely at trying to resolve this case given all else that’s involved.”
Trump University is also the subject of an ongoing investigation by New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman.