Professor Christopher Peterson, who teaches at the University of Utah in the S.J. Quinney College of Law, has written a paper outlining the clear legal issues that Donald Trump faces. The legal issues Peterson is looking at are the result of the avalanche of evidence that Trump has committed a racketeering-level’s worth of fraud.
In an analysis titled “Trump University and Presidential Impeachment,” Peterson explores Trump’s actions as the leader of Trump University, a for-profit business founded in 2005 where students spent upwards of $30,000 to learn real estate development skills. Trump University advertised curriculum and instructors chosen by Trump, promising students a high-caliber and selective experience. In fact, according to Peterson, Trump University was an unaccredited and unlicensed series of get-rich-quick seminars provided by traveling salesmen. The school closed in 2010 and lawsuits—including one filed by the state of New York alleging Trump tricked students out of $40 million—are ongoing. (Two class action cases in California are also pending). Peterson asserts that Trump’s pending consumer protection lawsuits for fraud and racketeering will cast a shadow over his presidency if Trump wins the election and possibly be legally permissible grounds for impeachment should he be elected to the White House.
Peterson explains that under the U.S. Constitution, presidents can be impeached for bribery, treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors. He argues that fraud and racketeering—both of which are alleged as civil claims against Trump in the pending lawsuits—may qualify as impeachable high crimes or misdemeanors under the U.S. Constitution.
I’m sure the Republican Party, and more specifically the elected officials on our legislative branch, will want to get right on this since they are so worried about it in the cases of President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Here are some highlights of Peterson’s paper:
- 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.
According to Raw Story, Peterson’s field of expertise is Consumer Law.