Trump U. Plaintiffs Say Donald Trump Imitating a 'Saturday Night Live' Skit

A motion to preclude from trial anything said on the campaign trail — Trump's charitable foundation, taxes, the Miss Universe pageant, etc. — is lampooned.
Getty Images

Win or lose on Election Day, Donald Trump is headed to trial Nov. 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 on Saturday Night Live imitating Trump.

On Oct. 20, Trump's attorney Daniel Petrocelli 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 opposition by the plaintiffs Tuesday.

Brian Cochran, the plaintiffs' attorney, tells the judge that the motion should be denied because Trump hasn't bothered to specify what exactly he wants precluded. The "overbroad net," he adds, threatens to ensnare admissible evidence and plaintiffs' ability to put on a case. He urges the judge not to create an evidentiary exception to anything that "relates" to a presidential campaign, further hinting that statements about bankruptcies, casinos, beauty pageants and more will be used at trial to attack Trump's credibility.

"In the course of the campaign, news organizations have collected and publicized practically every known Trump falsehood over the years, bringing all such statements within the gambit of Trump’s motion," states the plaintiffs' memorandum. "Trump’s penchant for dishonesty is so all-encompassing that the fact-checker news organization 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, falsehoods and flip-flops, as such statements are textbook impeachment evidence appropriate for trial."

Trump's attorney is arguing that the intrusion of matters publicized during the presidential campaign about the candidate's character and controversial behavior 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, exampled above, that they mean 'prejudice' in the sense of harmful to their defense," 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."

SNL's Oct. 22 cold open 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 plaintiff's opposition. "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 defense or ability to appear as a credible witness cannot warrant its exclusion."

comments powered by Disqus