Donald J. Trump (“Trump”), the Republican Party’s 2016 nominee for President of the United States, currently faces three lawsuits accusing him of fraud, false advertising, and racketeering. These ongoing cases focus on a series of wealth seminars Trump called “Trump University” which collected over $40 million from consumers seeking to learn Trump’s real estate investing strategies. Although these consumer protection cases are civil proceedings, the underlying legal elements in several counts plaintiffs seek to prove run parallel to the legal elements of serious crimes under both state and federal law. 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.
Addressing this issue of public concern, this essay provides a legal analysis exploring whether the United States House of Representatives could lawfully impeach and the Senate could convict a President Trump for fraud and racketeering in connection with Trump University. In the sections that follow, I first provide a summary of the evidence assembled in the three pending Trump University civil lawsuits. Part two describes the legal claims involved in each matter. Part three briefly summarizes the applicable law of presidential impeachment under the United States Constitution and analyzes whether Trump’s actions in connection with Trump University are impeachable offenses. And finally, I offer concluding thoughts, considering in particular the policy implications of a major presidential candidacy with simultaneously pending legal complaints of fraud and racketeering.
Peterson, Christopher L., "Trump University and Presidential Impeachment" (2016). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 14.