A legal researcher at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law says that current lawsuits against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are sufficient grounds to impeach him from the presidency if he is elected.
Professor Christopher L. Peterson has found that should Trump win the election in November, he would be vulnerable to impeachment, thanks to fraud and racketeering lawsuits related to the Trump University case.
“In the United States, it is illegal for businesses to use false statements to convince consumers to purchase their services,” Peterson wrote in a paper published Monday titled Trump University and Presidential Impeachment. “The evidence indicates that Trump University used a systemic pattern of fraudulent representations to trick thousands of families into investing in a program that can be argued was a sham.”
“Fraud and racketeering are serious crimes that legally rise to the level of impeachable acts,” he said.
Trump University, say a number of litigants, was billed as a series of seminars with Donald Trump and top real estate professionals that would teach enrollees to wheel and deal in high-value properties and amass millions in profit.
Families were encouraged to take out extravagant loans and max out their credit cards to pay the program's $30,000 average tuition. Documents have been introduced into evidence that show that the organization targeted the families of veterans and single mothers as ideal prospects for the scam.
Peterson said that evidence in the case thus far shows that in no way was Trump University an actual educational seminar, but in fact a "sales environment" where enrollees were urged to put more and more of their own money into the program.
"Sales practices at each seminar were systematically designed, painstakingly choreographed, and implemented ruthlessly," he wrote, based on internal memos between Trump University administrators and staff. "Posing as teachers, sales staff were trained to manipulate students' emotions in order to sell expensive 'Trump elite' packages."
"Trump University trained staff to find the emotional vulnerabilities of students and exploit those vulnerabilities to sell additional Trump University packages," he said.
Many attendees were left bankrupt with their credit ruined. Then when they attempted to seek redress, their calls weren't returned and the company appeared to evaporate into thin air.
"Somehow in the cacophony of the 2016 presidential campaign, no legal academic has yet turned to the question of whether Trump’s alleged behavior would, if proven, rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the impeachment clause of the United States Constitution," said Peterson, who specializes in consumer protection and litigation of predatory scams.
Among Peterson's findings, were the following points:
·Fraud and racketeering are serious crimes. Both fraud and racketeering are considered felonies under state and federal law. First-degree fraud is punishable by up to four years in prison in Trump’s home state of New York. Racketeering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison under federal law.
·Civil cases can legally inform Congress on whether impeachment is justified. The U.S. Constitution has never required criminal conviction prior to impeachment proceedings.
·Impeachment for pre-incumbency conduct is legally permissible under the U.S. Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution’s text requires impeachable conduct to have occurred while the president is in office. The framers rejected alternative formulations of impeachable offenses that included limitations to incumbent activity.
Peterson has written multiple books on consumer protection and predatory scams, including Consumer Law: Cases and Materials and Taming the Sharks: Towards a Cure for the High Cost Credit Market.
(Correction: This story previously stated incorrectly that Christopher Peterson argued Donald Trump could be impeached before taking office. We regret the error.)