Column: Trump asks to exclude his comments about the Trump University judge from the Trump University trial

Donald Trump appears Friday in Johnstown, Pa.
(Associated Press)

We may need a new definition of “chutzpah.”

Donald Trump targeted federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel in an an extended series of bigoted rants this summer, asserting that Curiel couldn’t rule fairly in cases alleging fraud by Trump University because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. “I’m building a wall,” Trump explained at one point to CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Now that the case is heading toward trial, Trump is asking the same judge to exclude those comments from evidence in the case. In a motion filed Thursday in San Diego federal court, his attorneys maintain that his own comments are “extraneous” and would be “irrelevant, and prejudicial.” Remarkably, they say that the plaintiffs in the case, who include students claiming they were ripped off by the so-called university, will use those statements “in an attempt to inflame and prejudice the jury.” Judge Curiel has set a hearing on the motion for Nov. 10, two days after election day. Trial is set to begin Nov. 28.

I’m building a wall.

Donald Trump explains why Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has Mexican heritage, couldn’t be fair in the Trump University case


Trump’s lawyers say that Trump has been disadvantaged by the “perhaps unprecedented media coverage and public interest” in his campaign. “His politics, policies, opinions, and views have been reported virtually every day in every form of media over the past year.” They glide over the fact that he provoked this interest himself, and commented about Judge Curiel of his own volition, typically unprompted.

Nevertheless, the lawyers ask that the judge exclude from evidence presented to the jury “statements at political rallies, including statements about this case,” “comments about this case or the Court,” and evidence about Trump’s personal conduct and other business ventures.

Trump’s remarks on the stump about the Indiana-born Judge Curiel caused a political uproar. He maintained that his anti-immigrant position, including his determination to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, would prejudice Curiel against him. He implied that already had happened.

“Based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case,” he said, “I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”

In fact, objective legal observers concluded that the judge had been very fair, following the law accurately. As we reported at the time, “not only has Curiel adhered closely to the applicable law in every particular, but many of his rulings have been highly advantageous to Trump and the, er, ‘university.’” The rundown of his charges and the trial experts’ conclusions can be found here.

Trump’s motion to exclude his own statements came amid a flurry of similar motions Thursday. His attorneys also asked to exclude testimony and columns by my colleague David Lazarus, who reported in 2007 on his attendance at a Trump University “preview.” Lazarus wasn’t a Trump U student and didn’t pay any money, and the event he witnessed wasn’t among those attended by the class plaintiffs, Trump’s lawyers say. Among the evidence that the plaintiffs are seeking to exclude are student evaluations often cited by Trump, purporting to demonstrate 98% satisfaction with the Trump University program.

Neither side has yet responded to the other’s motions. It’s unclear how the judge will rule on Trump’s statements or even if the plaintiffs will object. In the past, Judge Curiel has been sensitive to the encroachment of the political circus into this case, but he also has ruled that Trump’s activities have some relevance. In the meantime, observers can relish the thought that Trump has suddenly discovered that the insults he so casually bandied about on the campaign trail have the potential to cost him real money.

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