The courts could be busy this summer

150310151059-02-hillary-clinton-speech-0310-super-169Your columnist must reiterate what should be obvious. I do not speak for the FBI and have no inside knowledge of the current investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails. We have learned recently that Bryan Pagliano, who worked on the Clinton campaign, whom she appointed to the State Department, and who set up her private server has now been granted immunity by the FBI. He can no longer claim the protection of the Fifth Amendment, as he has been doing for months. But we do not yet know what sort of evidence he may be able to offer. The indictment of Hilary Clinton remains a possibility which is hard to assess.

There is also a case pending which could involve Donald Trump. If it happens, it would be a civil trial, not a criminal trial. If both trials run before the November election, that would definitely be one point in his favor. But a trial over the failure of Trump University would go to the heart of his offering to the electorate. He claims to be a brilliantly successful businessman and a “winner” who can be trusted. His university was a monumental business failure, and the plaintiffs in the case accuse him of blatant lying. 

Trump is facing three lawsuits. Two class actions by former ‘students’ of Trump University and one initiated here in New York by the state Attorney General’s office. The New York lawsuit seems the weakest, at least insofar as it depends on the claim that Trump’s business was fraudulent in calling itself a university. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone thought it was a university in the traditional sense. It was a series of classes held in hotels around the country. Critics claim that the main objective of the tutors was to get “students” to sign up for further, more expensive, classes. Some people seem to have spent thousands, or even tens of thousands on these seminars and now claim to have found them valueless. 

Trump’s organization claims that the seminars had “98% approval” including some positive feedback from people who are suing. Maybe, but giving positive feedback at the time should not be a barrier to suing later. If I convinced you that you could fly by flapping your arms you might well come away from the seminar feeling pumped and optimistic. Why wouldn’t you? You had just learned how to fly. Experience might nonetheless teach you that my theories were flawed just seconds after you tried to apply them. 

Trump claimed in a video still available online that the seminars would be led by people “handpicked” by him. This appears to be untrue, with critics alleging he played no role in selecting the seminar leaders. 

Trump has said he is keen to go to court to clear this thing up. His legal team, however, is claiming that the case cannot go to court this summer – when the Republican Convention meets in Cleveland – because it would be a “zoo”. That does seem possible.

Indeed, there has to be at least a slim chance that Trump and Clinton will be in court at the same time. It seems unlikely that the first presidential debate will feature a clash between the candidates of the Libertarian and Green Parties, with the Democrat and Republican “unavailable”, but we can dream. 

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Quentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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