Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump have agreed to begin settlement talks in a class-action lawsuit alleging fraud against the former Trump University.
Trump's lawyers went to court Thursday in San Diego, California, in an attempt to push back the November 28 court date for the lawsuit until after Trump is sworn into office. They contend the presidential transition period is too intense for their client to begin the trial. The lawsuit, alleging that Trump U failed to deliver investment tips, was filed in 2010.
"This has been a gut-wrenching campaign, as everybody knows. And the nation is just beginning the long healing process. 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," said Daniel Petrocelli, Trump’s lead attorney.
Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had told lawyers he was not inclined to delay the trial, but would announce his decision next week. He encouraged both sides to consider making a deal.
He said both parties could work on a possible settlement with U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller in San Diego. They agreed.
Trump University students paid as much as $35,000 to obtain what they were told would be Trump's real estate investment strategies. Complainants say they were falsely told that Trump would personally select the program’s instructors. Documents from the now-defunct business show that its sales people were told to deliberately mislead potential customers, manipulate their emotions and ignore their concerns.
Trump's lawyers argue that customer surveys show the vast majority of students were satisfied with the course. However, the timing of the hearing threatens to refocus attention on one of the most embarrassing moments of Trump's campaign just as he prepares to take the reins of the U.S. government.
Trump outraged the public, including leading figures in his own party, when six months ago he questioned whether Curiel would rule fairly in his case because of the judge's "Mexican heritage." Trump repeatedly had pledged to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States, once describing many of Mexicans who have entered the United States illegally as "criminals" and "rapists."
Curiel is an American who was born and raised in the Midwestern state of Indiana.
At the time, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan questioned Trump's comments about Curiel. "I regret those comments he made," Ryan said. "Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of racism."