Trump lawyers' bid to delay trial over "pyramid scheme" lawsuit just backfired on his 2024 campaign

A federal judge is done with Trump lawyers' stonewalling

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published December 15, 2022 12:30PM (EST)

Trump family members Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump (Paul Morigi/WireImage/Getty Images)
Trump family members Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump (Paul Morigi/WireImage/Getty Images)

A federal lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump and his family of promoting a pyramid scheme will finally go to trial on Jan. 29, 2024 – at the start of a presidential election year.

The lawsuit, which was anonymously filed in Oct. 2018, alleges that the Trump Corporation promoted a multi-level marketing scheme — or a pyramid scheme — through the company ACN Opportunity, LLC, which operates under the name American Communications Network, Law & Crime reports. 

The four plaintiffs claim that Trump should be held liable for lending his and his children Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump's names to a pyramid scheme that broke state and federal laws around "racketeering and conspiracy to racketeer." 

The Trump family falsely endorsed and promoted ACN by insisting that the enterprise "offered a reasonable probability of commercial success" and even embedded advertisements on the show, The Celebrity Apprentice. In exchange, they allegedly received millions of dollars in secret payments.

The former president also personally endorsed the company under the guise of a "renowned entrepreneur and multi-billionaire," the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also says that the Trump family's promotion of ACN encouraged the plaintiffs to invest hundreds of dollars into the company, but they never reaped any benefit from the investment.

The case will finally see a jury roughly six years after its initial filing. It encountered repeated delays after Trump's attempts to dismiss the case and to publicly disclose its plaintiffs.

"Plaintiffs have no desire to interfere with the upcoming campaign, and are mindful that, should the schedule in this case extend into 2024, Defendants likely will, as they have in the past, use the campaign as a basis to seek further delay," plaintiffs' attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote in a four-page letter soon after Trump declared his candidacy. "Setting a trial date now will provide certainty and avoid any such delay later. In addition, aligning summary judgment briefing with class certification briefing makes sense, given that discovery will be complete and there is no reason to wait."

Kaplan added that "Trump is a lead Defendant and his participation at trial and availability for cross examination are obviously critical."

She estimated that his campaign events would likely begin in January or February 2024 so an October 2023 trial date would avoid undue intrusion and facilitate a resolution of the case. 

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But Trump's legal team argued that an October 2023 trial date would interfere with another trial against Trump and his family. The $250 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James will head to trial in state court that same month.

"Plaintiffs' initial request for an October 2023 trial date is nothing more than an unfortunate attempt to interfere with another case in which my partner and I are counsel for Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, both of whom are also Defendants in this case," attorney Clifford Robert wrote in a letter.

U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield warned that there would be no further delay in her Tuesday order.

"The trial date is firm," Schofield wrote, "as the trial is scheduled far advance to accommodate the parties' stated availability in their letters."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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