Donald Trump released yet another statement Tuesday afternoon about the doings at Trump University—this time amid an uproar over his racist comments about Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge who is hearing a case against Trump’s defunct wealth-seminar company. Any statement that opens up with a mention of all of Trump’s “Mexican and Hispanic” friends and employees is going to be good—and boy does this one deliver plenty of bluster, semitruths, and outright smoke. Let’s dive in, claim by claim:
Throughout the litigation my attorneys have continually demonstrated that students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education based upon a curriculum developed by professors from Northwestern University, Columbia Business School, Stanford University and other respected institutions.
When Trump first unveiled Trump University in 2005, he did indeed line up a roster of well-known business professors to consult on and develop a course of study. Earlier this year, the Daily Beast tracked down Roger Schank, who has taught in the past at Northwestern University and Stanford University, and who said he was responsible for the initial curriculum. His claim? That after a certain point, “Trump decided to go in another direction, according to Schank,” the Daily Beast wrote. “There would be no more online courses, no more lectures from Ivy League professors, no more books—just seminars …”
What Trump didn’t address at all? According to a lawsuit filed against Trump and Trump University by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the so-called curriculum that was ultimately used was “developed by a third-party company that creates and develops materials for an array of motivational speakers and seminar and timeshare rental companies.” So much for “respected institutions.”
Nor did Trump address claims that that many of the Trump University instructors were a mix of motivational speakers and less-than-successful housing-market investors.
Trump writes in the statement:
And, the response from students was overwhelming. Over a five-year period, more than 10,000 paying students filled out surveys giving the courses high marks and expressing their overwhelming satisfaction with Trump University’s programs.
The truth: More than 80,000 people attended the free informational session offered up to entice them to pay $1,495 to attend a three-day session of Trump U. A little more than 9,000 bit. Then fewer than 1,000 went on to pay up to $35,000 for advanced training.
Clearly, most people didn’t fill out any sort of survey at all. As for those who did, more than a few felt coerced into providing positive ratings. Reports abound about teachers who demanded positive ratings. The New York Times, for example, reported that Trump University attendees not only rated teachers in front of the teachers (pressure much?) but that course completion certificates would be withheld from people who didn’t fill out the evaluation.
Trump did not address that allegation in his statement.
He did, however, take on a few of his more prominent student-critics. He claims, for example, that lawyers in California sought to remove Tarla Makaeff as the “original” plaintiff in the case against Trump University after they realized what a “disastrous witness she was.”
True, Makaeff withdrew from the case earlier this year. But lawyers didn’t push her out. Instead, they claimed in court filings that Makaeff “wants her life back without living in fear of being disparaged by Trump on national television.”
As for Bob Giullo, another frequent Trump critic who claimed on paper to have found Trump University worthwhile? He told the New York Times his instructor told him he would lose his job if he didn’t get a glowing review.
OK, on to the next claim:
For those students who decided that Trump University’s programs were not for them, the company had a generous refund policy, offering a full refund to any student who asked for their money back within 3 days of signing up for a program or by the end of the first day of any multi-day program, whichever came later.
What Trump doesn’t say? Almost 40 percent of the enrollees received refunds. That’s a seriously high dissatisfaction rate. Also, some people—like Kathleen Meese, a teacher and the mom of a son with Down syndrome who spent upward of $25,000 on Trump U classes—wanted a refund but couldn’t receive one. Nor does he mention allegations that people attending the sessions were urged to take on credit card debt to pay for the classes.
Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality.
OK, it took me a minute to parse Trump’s knotted diction here. Here’s what he likely means: Judge Curiel is a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association, a perfectly respectable professional organization. Last year, the HNBA called for a boycott of Trump-owned businesses, in response to what they described as his “derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants.”
Then there is Curiel’s membership in the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association. Apparently, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a law firm representing the plaintiffs in the case, sponsored a gathering of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association back in 2014. The firm also paid both Bill and Hillary Clinton to speak in recent years.
As far as I can tell, Trump’s implication is the one going around certain right-wing outlets known for conspiracy-type thinking: that Curiel is suspicious because of his ancestry and is acting as a faithful servant of these groups, not an impartial judge.
Do you really need me to address this?
While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further.
Keeping quiet and exercising impulse control is not Trump’s strength. So no doubt this last claim will be proven false within the next few days.