Donald Trump introduces Trump University at a press conference in Trump Tower, New York, May 2005.
Photo by Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA

Details emerge on ‘Trump University’ settlement

Updated
On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. On Jan. 18, however, Trump will have to set aside millions of dollars in order to compensate some of his alleged victims. Politico reported last night:
A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a $25 million deal to settle fraud lawsuits over President-elect Donald Trump’s Trump University real estate seminar program.

U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel issued an order Tuesday evening giving an initial sign-off on the settlement…. Trump University must produce the $25 million to fund the settlement by Jan. 18. If it doesn’t do so, Trump himself has to come up with the money.
As the Politico report makes clear, the process may yet take a few procedural twists and turns, and Curiel will still have to sign off on the final deal.

But as things stand, Donald Trump is poised to become the first American in history to headline a presidential inauguration and payoff the victims of an allegedly fraudulent scam in the same week.

I continue to think this is one of the under-appreciated parts of the president-elect’s background. The “Trump University” operation is awfully tough to defend, and it offers some striking parallels to the broader political circumstances: a controversial celebrity, eager to capitalize on his notoriety, made ridiculous and unrealistic claims, which he swore without evidence would produce amazing results. Those who chose to trust him, soon after, came to regret it.

The difference is, students from “Trump University” could file a civil suit, accusing Trump of orchestrating a fraud. Voters won’t have that luxury.

Let’s also note that the suit – which Trump promised not to settle, shortly before he settled – probably would have gone the plaintiff’s way had it continued. The New York Times had this report a few weeks ago:
Mr. Trump’s confident assertion clashes with the evidence gathered by prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case. Those documents include dozens of sworn statements by students and instructors, some of whom described the program as a scheme to cheat customers out of thousands of dollars, and sales playbooks that called for tapping into “the roller coaster of emotions” to get students to sign up.

In court, the president-elect would have contended with the personal and potentially damaging testimony of aggrieved students. One recounted in a legal filing that he had faced “strong pressure” to sign up for more expensive mentoring, including a push to increase his credit limit to pay for a $25,000 course. Another said his already difficult financial situation deteriorated further as a result of the program, leaving him “insolvent.” A third simply called it a “scam.”
We’ll never know how the case would have turned out, but the evidence against Trump painted a very ugly picture.

No American president has ever been accused of defrauding members of the public and knowingly running a scam operation, bilking unsuspecting victims of their money. It’s one of many reasons Donald J. Trump is in a league of his own.