Donald Trump Could Have to Take the Witness Stand Soon

February 24th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Donald J. Trump — who is decidedly leading the Republican presidential field after consecutive wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — could be forced to take a break from campaigning this spring to appear in court.

According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Southern California, the now-defunct for-profit Trump University "ensnared [...] thousands of [...] student-victims in a fraudulent scheme nationwide to sell real estate seminars and mentorships by trading on the Trump moniker." The lawsuit states:

Trump University markets itself as a University driven by the mission to “train, educate and mentor entrepreneurs on achieving financial independence through real estate investing.” It is anything but. In fact, rather than serving its students as a university or college, Defendant Trump University is more like an infomercial, selling non-accredited products, such as sales workshops, luring customers in with the name and reputation of its founder and Chairman, billionaire land mogul Donald J. Trump.

The final pre-trial conference is set to take place on May 6. There is currently no date set for the start of the trial proceedings, but Yahoo News reports that the judge has expressed interest in moving the case along. It's also likely Trump will be called to testify, as he's listed as a witness for both the defense and the prosecution.

Trump University

The case surrounding Trump University, which has dragged on for five years now, has quietly loomed over the candidate's campaign for months. Plaintiffs allege Trump University promised a fast-track to riches and real-estate mastery through instruction by "handpicked experts" and expensive seminars. But former students say the program was more or less a sham, which offered "no practical advice." The allegations even led to a separate fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013.

"This is pretty amazing," Scott Reed, a political consultant, told Yahoo in reference to the candidate's court date. "Usually, you clean this stuff up before you run for president."

donald-trump-iraq-war-2002Throughout the case, Trump's company, the Trump Organization, has denied the allegations, but the court appearance could still cause problems for the candidate.

If Trump is indeed called to testify in May, it could interrupt him during a crucial final phase of campaigning — with votes in Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, Washington all slated for that month.

University of Phoenix campus in Washington, DC

A Trump campaign spokesperson did not respond to ATTN:'s request for comment.

The renewed focus on Trump University comes at a time when for-profit educational institutions are increasingly in the spotlight for imposing high costs on hopeful students, but offering little in return. Earlier in February, the U.S. Department of Education announced a Student Aid Enforcement Unit to more quickly address allegations against educational institutions, largely in response to widespread criticism of for-profit colleges. A majority of the 8,424 borrower complaints against schools were filed against the for-profit Corninthian Colleges, which closed its campuses last year after declaring bankruptcy.

[h/t Yahoo Politics]