Trump University was never a university. That should tell you all you need to know.
It was a series of real estate workshops held in hotel ballrooms. Students attended seminars led by salesmen, not professors, who pressured them to invest more cash in additional courses.
It was no different than one of those late night info-commercials that promise 10 ways to “get rich quick” if you just phone in with your credit card number.
Promoting his “university” was the well known The Apprentice star and billionaire Donald Trump. He promised in commercials and videos, “I can turn anyone into a successful real estate investor, including you!” He also said he had “handpicked” all of the experts teaching at his university, but we now know he didn’t choose any of them.
The playbook from Trump University, released in court documents last week, describes the “roller coaster of emotions” potential student-buyers would experience, including the exact moment their emotional state would render them most likely to purchase more Trump products. The Donald himself made more than $5 million during the few years the university was functional.
But like with most get-rich programs, not everyone made millions. And the criticism grew.
Trump University is currently the defendant in three lawsuits — two federal class-action lawsuits filed in California, and one in New York State Court. Each of them filed before Trump entered the presidential race.
According to Fortune, Trump University is accused not just of fraud, false advertising, and unfair business practices, but also of having used such tactics against vulnerable seniors in ways that violated special “financial elder abuse” statutes in California and Florida.
“We started looking at Trump University and discovered that it was a classic bait-and-switch scheme. It was a scam, starting with the fact that it was not a university,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who is seeking $40 million in restitution for victims.
During three-day workshops, Trump University instructors urged students to call their credit card companies and request increased borrowing limits.
Bob Guillo paid $34,995 for the Trump Gold Elite package. He said he walked away with a meaningless “certificate of completion” and a photograph of himself with a life-size image of Trump. “I really felt stupid that I was scammed by Trump,” said Guillo. “I thought that he was really legit.”
Trump says “98 percent” of his students loved the courses based on surveys they filled out. However, those surveys were completed in class with an instructor looking on, and before any of the promises made by Trump were disproved.
In addition, Trump has threatened to sue—or actually sued—many of the people who have brought Trump University to the public’s attention.
Trump also claims he is not getting a fair shake in the New York case because Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, has Mexican parents. “He’s of Mexican heritage, and I’m going to build a wall,” said Trump.
That remark prompted one of Trump’s strongest supporters, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to warn him to start acting like “a potential leader of the United States.” Gingrich added, “I don’t know what Trump’s reasoning was, and I don’t care. His description of the judge in terms of his parentage is completely unacceptable. It is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made, I think it’s inexcusable.”
Other Republican officials are upset too.
Ohio Governor John Kasich wrote that Trump should “apologize to Judge Curiel and try to unite this country.”
Senator Marco Rubio said, “He needs to stop saying it. That man is an American — born in the United States. I don’t think it reflects well on the Republican Party. I don’t think it reflects well on us as a nation.”
Senator Susan Collins added, “Donald Trump’s comments on the ethnic heritage and religion of judges are absolutely unacceptable. His statement that Judge Curiel could not rule fairly because of his Mexican heritage does not represent our American values.”
Trump now says a Muslim judge would be unfair to him too.
The civil trial is currently on track to begin in August in federal court in San Diego, just a few weeks after the Republican convention concludes.
Trump is expected to give sworn testimony later this fall in a case that shows no sign of going away soon.