Donald Trump’s Legal Gambit in His Fraud Trial Is Also a Fraud

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The president-elect and his fake university.Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images

Trump University is the most potent metaphor for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The enterprise was a dry run for the technique of using Trump’s media image as a business genius to exploit economically vulnerable Americans for Trump’s own personal profit. The formula first used at his pseudo-university — an astonishingly cynical scheme to bilk desperate people — was then used, with several dollops of racial resentment, to win a campaign.

But while it has always been legal to defraud people out of their vote, it is not legal to defraud them out of their money. Trump University is the subject of legal action that has strangely receded from the news. Several months ago, Donald Trump requested that the fraud suit against him for Trump University be delayed until after the election, citing the duties of campaigning. Judge Gonzalo Curiel granted the request, and the trial is scheduled for the end of the month. Now Trump is requesting another delay, arguing that the transition will command all of his time, and the trial should be postponed until Trump has been sworn in.

It is worth pondering not only how shameless this request is, but why Trump is making it. It is obvious that Trump will have even less time to spare as president than he does as president-elect (just as it was obvious he would have less time to spare as president-elect than he did as a candidate). So why does Trump want this delay? The most likely explanation is that, once elected, Trump will have a massive legislative and legal apparatus at his command.

There is already a clear legal precedent that holds that a president is not immune to a civil suit for private conduct. The precedent came about as a result of the Paula Jones lawsuit, which Republicans eventually used to pry open revelations of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. But Congress could pass a law shielding presidents from lawsuits, thus wiping the slate clean on Trump’s wide array of legal vulnerabilities. The Republican Congress would probably be happy to shield President Trump this way. Barack Obama probably won’t sign a law like that, but President Trump quite certainly would, thus his transparently dishonest rationale for delaying the trial until his political allies can quash it.