​Art imitates life as Trump trial looms

Thumbs up: As Donald Trump heads to court at the end of November, his attorneys are pushing for potentially prejudicial evidence relating to the presidential primaries to be excluded. (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Thumbs up: As Donald Trump heads to court at the end of November, his attorneys are pushing for potentially prejudicial evidence relating to the presidential primaries to be excluded. (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Win or lose on election day on Tuesday November 8, Donald Trump is headed to trial on November 28 to face claims of fraudulently duping those who paid to learn real estate secrets from Trump University teachers supposedly “handpicked” by the Republican presidential nominee.

The nature of the proceeding, however, is still being shaped and now Trump is being accused of imitating Alec Baldwin imitating Trump on the television spoof show Saturday Night Live.

Trump’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, has brought a motion aimed at excluding all evidence and arguments relating to the events of the presidential primaries and general election.

“The media have reported on every aspect of Mr Trump’s life, from his long background and history in business and his work in television to his wife, daughters and sons, charitable foundation, taxes and even the Miss Universe pageant,” stated Trump’s memorandum in support.

“Before trial begins in this case, prospective members of the jury will have the opportunity to cast their vote for president. 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.”

This triggered a scathing reply from the plaintiffs this week.

Brian Cochran, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told the judge that the motion should be denied because Trump hasn’t bothered to specify what exactly he wants precluded. The “overbroad net”, he added, threatened to ensnare admissible evidence and plaintiffs’ ability to put on a case.

He urged the judge not to create an evidentiary exception to anything that “relates” to a presidential campaign, hinting that statements about bankruptcies, casinos, beauty pageants and more will be used at the trial to attack Trump’s credibility.

“In the course of the campaign, news organisations have collected and publicised practically every known Trumphood over the years, bringing all such statements within the ambit of Trump’s motion,” states the plaintiffs’ memorandum.

“Trump’s penchant for dishonesty is so all-encompassing that the fact-checker news organisation PolitiFact ‘couldn’t settle on just one’, and instead awarded Trump’s entire campaign the ‘2015 Lie of the Year’. Trump cannot be allowed to bar from trial, without reference to a single specific statement or grounding in precedent, his own well-documented melange of misrepresentations, [false]hoods and flip-flops, as such statements are textbook impeachment evidence appropriate for trial.”

Trump’s attorney is arguing that the intrusion of matters publicised during the presidential campaign about the candidate’s character and controversial behaviour carries a danger of “extreme and irremediable prejudice”, potentially tainting his right to a fair trial.

In response, the plaintiffs nod to Saturday Night Live.

“Although defendants once again fail to provide any specifics, it is clear from the broad categories defendants seek to exclude … that they mean ‘prejudice’ in the sense of harmful to their defence,” writes Cochran. “In an example of life imitating art, defendants pull a page from a recent Saturday Night Live skit, in which Alec Baldwin’s Trump made essentially the same argument in a parody of a presidential debate.”

Saturday Night Live from October 22 is quoted:

Trump (Baldwin): Because frankly, this whole thing is rigged. Even the media. Every day I turn on the news and all of the newscasters are making me look so bad.

Moderator: And how are we doing that?

Trump: By taking all of the things I say, and all of the things I do, and putting them on TV.

“The joke, of course, is that Trump is complaining not that his words and actions are being unfairly portrayed, but that they are being accurately portrayed,” continues the plaintiff’s response. “The same is true for Trump’s [motion to bar campaign-related evidence], which does not identify a single statement that was not tweeted, recorded or repeated accurately. Simply because evidence tends to undercut Trump’s defence or ability to appear as a credible witness cannot warrant its exclusion.” — Bloomberg

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