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Trump the candidate wants campaign kept out of Trump University fraud trial

Trump the candidate wants campaign kept out of Trump University fraud trial
Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit say Donald Trump's namesake university promised to teach them the secrets of real estate, but delivered little even after payments as high as $35,000. (John Gastaldo/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Lawyers for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are asking a San Diego judge in the upcoming fraud trial over Trump University to keep out any evidence relating to his presidential campaign.

In a pretrial motion filed Thursday in federal court, lawyer Daniel Petrocelli listed more than a dozen areas he described as "outside the adjudicative" process that jurors should not hear.

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They covered much of what Trump has been saying over the past year or more, and what has been said and written about him as he pursues the presidency.

The list included any evidence from campaign statements, speeches, advertisements, statements at debates and tweets from Trump's very active Twitter account.

It also included two specific subject areas that have been flash points during the campaign and controversial for the candidate: "personal conduct accusations" and "comments about this case and the court."

The motion does not specifically identify what comments are out of bounds.

The personal conduct accusations could relate to the women who recently have accused Trump of groping or kissing them. The candidate has denied mistreating women, characterizing the accusations as fiction and blaming Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign for prompting the women to come forward.

The comments about Trump University litigation stem from his widely reported attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the case.

In a stop in San Diego in May, Trump said Curiel was being unfair to him and charged that the judge's "Mexican" heritage made him biased against the businessman. The judge was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.

A firestorm of criticism ensued over the remarks, but Trump did not back down.

Petrocelli said the evidence he wants excluded is "extraneous, irrelevant and prejudicial" to the upcoming trial.

"Before trial begins in this case, prospective members of the jury will have the opportunity to cast their vote for president," the lawyer wrote. "It is in the ballot box where they are free to judge Mr. Trump based on all this and more. But it is in the jury box where they must judge him and this case only on evidence and argument relevant to the issues at hand."

The motion was one of many filed this week by lawyers from both sides seeking to shape the upcoming trial. It is set to begin Nov. 28, less than three weeks after the presidential election.

The plaintiffs in the class-action suit contend they were lured into paying for seminars and services from Trump University, believing they were getting inside secrets of real estate success from Trump's handpicked teachers.

Instead, the suit said, they received little insight or knowledge after paying as much as $35,000 to the university.

Other information Trump wants excluded includes statements about his taxes, his charitable foundation, prior bankruptcies, his statements about other politicians, state attorneys general or "public servants" and his casino and beauty pageant businesses.

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The trial will be held in two phases. The first will determine liability — whether Trump is liable for deceiving customers as they allege — and the second any monetary damages.

Curiel is expected to rule on Petrocelli's motion and several others on Nov. 10, two days after the election.

greg.moran@sduniontribune.com

Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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