Trump University is back in the news after a judge released documents showing that the university preyed on the financially disadvantaged. Here are seven things you need to know about the scam that was Trump University.
1. Trump University was actually not a university. As The Daily Wire reported back in February, “Trump University was billed as an online course with distinguished professors and expert real estate investors teaching people how to become rich like [real estate mogul Donald] Trump.” But Trump University actually featured none of these things.
2. Trump University employees were ordered to scam people who were struggling financially. The Daily Wire reported on Wednesday that a federal judge released nearly 400 documents revealing that Trump University employees would feature a free seminar for potential students where they were pressured to sign up for a three day seminar of $1,495 then cajoled into signing up for the absurdly expensive gold elite package:
One document that instructed Trump University employees read, “Money is never a reason for not enrolling in Trump University; if they really believe in you and your product, they will find the money. You are not doing any favor [sic] by letting someone use lack of money as an excuse.”
The document continued, “When you introduce the price, don’t make it sound like you think it’s a lot of money, if you don’t make a big deal out of it they won’t. If they can afford the gold elite don’t allow them to think about doing anything besides the gold elite.” The regular course cost $1,495. The gold elite option cost $34,995.
Targeting the disadvantaged, one document read, “Urgency is proportional to pain. Problems are like health. The more a problem hurts now, the more the need for a solution now. And the more it hurts, the more they’ll be prepared to pay for a speedy solution. It’s got to hurt enough!”
Getting more specific as to which customers to target, the document adds, “Are they a single parent of three children that may need money for food? Or are they a middle-aged commuter that is tired of traveling for 2 hours for work each day?”
According to the UK Guardian, the instructors were told to say the following to people who were hesitant about buying the gold plan:
As one of your mentors for the last three days, it’s time for me to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s time for you to be 100% honest with yourself. You’ve had your entire adult life to accomplish your financial goals. I’m looking at your profile and you’re not even close to where you need to be, much less where you want to be. It’s time you fix your broken plan, bring in Mr. Trump’s top instructors and certified millionaire mentors and allow us to put you and keep you on the right track. Your plan is BROKEN and WE WILL help you fix it. Remember you have to be 100% honest with yourself!
The teachers were then told to probe potential students with personal questions to find possible avenues to exploit these people into purchasing their scam. Trump University’s former Events Department manager Corinne Sommer testified that she witnessed Trump University employees telling homeless consumers to “max out your credit card” and “charge the course to multiple credit cards if they lacked a high enough limit on one credit card to pay for the seminar.”
If potential customers had already maxed out their credit cards, then Trump University employees would say the following:
Trump University “sales playbook” advised what to say when a potential customer has maxed out on credit cards pic.twitter.com/kA3TJ7bbyA
— Jacob Gershman (@jacobgershman) May 31, 2016
Ronald Schnackenberg, former Trump University sales manager, provided a similar story to Sommer’s and said that he was punished for refusing to scam a couple into buying the gold elite package they couldn’t afford.
“Based upon my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money,” Schnackenberg said.
3. The so-called “distinguished professors” and “real-estate experts” didn’t exactly have extensive real estate qualifications. In fact, Sommer said that most of the “experts” were really just people adept “at high-pressure sales,” according to The New York Times, and she was alarmed that one of the experts had literally no experience in real-estate, as his background was in jewelry sales.
Another “expert” reportedly had his home foreclosed during his tenure at Trump University and another was only experienced at giving lectures.
The university sold the idea that Trump, who owned 93 percent of Trump University, would be personally involved in the courses, but he never was.
4. People’s lives were allegedly ruined by the Trump University scam. Here are a couple of the alleged victims from the scam:
- Kathleen Meese, who is raising a son with Down Syndrome, spent her entire life savings on Trump University with nothing to show for it.
- Kevin Scott, whose mentor told him to purchase and sell houses, couldn’t get the bank’s approval to buy the houses without proper funding, which Trump University had promised to provide and never did. Now, Scott lives in a tiny apartment and is forced to put his house up for rent now that his credit cards have been maxed out to pay for tuition.
5. Trump University is now facing three lawsuits. Two are class-action lawsuits from former students in California, and another is civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“If you look at the facts of this case, this shows someone who was absolutely shameless in his willingness to lie to people, to say whatever it took to induce them into his phony seminars,” Schneiderman said.
6. Trump responded to the release of the documents by attacking the judge for being Hispanic. At a rally in San Diego, Trump whined, “I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel. And he is not doing the right thing … [He] happens to be, we believe, Mexican.”
Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, tried to justify Trump’s smear of Curiel by claiming that numerous anti-Trump protestors are Hispanic, via The Right Scoop:
Trump also hit Curiel for being appointed by President Barack Obama:
I have a judge in the Trump University civil case, Gonzalo Curiel (San Diego), who is very unfair. An Obama pick. Totally biased-hates Trump
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2016
7. The Democrats plan on using Trump University as a bludgeon against Trump in the general election. It has already started:
Trump U is devastating because it’s metaphor for his whole campaign: promising hardworking Americans way to get ahead, but all based on lies
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 1, 2016
That is Clinton’s press secretary, signaling that the Clinton campaign will amplify that line of attack over the coming months, similar to how the Obama campaign attacked 2012 GOP presidential nominee for his work at Bain Capital.
“Democrats won’t want to attack populism per se, and will have a hard time convincing certain voters to take them at their word that Trump’s promises are fraudulent. He’s incredibly successful, after all!” writes Brian Beutler at The New Republic. “But Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness. Trump says that he—and only he—has all the answers for the ailing middle class. That he will ply his business acumen on behalf of the everyman and turn his good fortune into theirs. All they have to do to secure his beneficence is fork over their votes. But it’s all a scam. All lies. And when his victims and former employees testify to this for the country, it will be devastating.”
Trump University may actually be an effective attack against Trump, given Trump’s childish reaction to the judge. His surrogates don’t have any solid responses to the apparent scam, as evident in CNN contributor Jeff Lord tripping over himself to defend his candidate while being interrogated by host Anderson Cooper.