New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman is suing Donald Trump and his real estate "university" for defrauding more than 5,000 people of $40 million. "Mr. Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn't afford for lessons they never got," Schniederman says in a release. "No one, no matter how rich or popular they are, has a right to scam hard working New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable."
According to Schneiderman, Trump's scheme involved getting people to sign up for a $1,495 three-day seminar, which was just a springboard for pitching the "Trump Elite Mentorship" programs that cost $10K to $35K.
In the seminar, participants were allegedly "encouraged to call their credit card companies during breaks, to increase their credit limits to have access to funds to do real estate deals." Naturally, "the real reason Trump University asked consumers to request higher credit limits was so they could use the credit to pay for the expensive Elite programs."
All the while, Trump promised "hand-picked" instructors. "We're gonna teach you better than the business schools are gonna teach you," Trump tells a strange, unidentified man in the video below. "We're gonna teach you life."
"In reality, many of the promises made at the free seminars went unfulfilled," Schiederman's release states, bathos dripping off every syllable. "An investigation by Attorney General Schneiderman revealed that Donald Trump did not handpick even a single instructor at these seminars and had little or no role in developing any of the Trump University curricula, or seminar content."
The complaint also alleges that Trump operated unlicensed, and illegally called the school a "University," which in a legal context, defines a much larger, if slightly more useful scam. And then there's this anecdote about Trump's Elite Membership Program:
Instead of a personal appearance from Donald Trump as some consumers were led to expect, some participants got their photographs taken with a life-size photo of Mr. Trump.
"Some" ! Not even all of them got to take a photo with a cardboard cutout.
How can Trump's lawyers spin this? Maybe he actually taught them about the lucrative world of praying on people's hopes and dreams during turbulent economic times with fraudulent universities?
On Saturday evening, Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, denied the accusations in the lawsuit and said the school had received 11,000 evaluations, 98 percent of which rated students as “extremely satisfied.”
George Sorial, another lawyer for Mr. Trump, called the lawsuit politically motivated. He said that Mr. Schneiderman had asked Mr. Trump and his family for campaign contributions and grew angry when denied.
“This is tantamount to extortion,” Mr. Sorial said.
Turns out Schneiderman actually did take a contribution from Trump. A bridge worth burning.