New York State’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, has called out Donald Trump for what he really is: a phony.
In a $40 million lawsuit filed this weekend, Schneiderman accused the pompous reality TV show star of running a fake real estate investment school that promised everything from apprenticeships to the opportunity to meet Trump — and failed to deliver either. The “students,” who paid up to $35,000, were instead enrolled in short seminars and had their picture taken with a life-size cardboard cutout of The Donald.
“Trading on his celebrity status, Mr. Trump personally appeared in advertisements making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got,” Schneiderman said. “No one, no matter how rich or famous they are, has a right to scam hardworking New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable.”
Trump University, said the attorney general, “engaged in deception at every stage of consumers’ advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm…with Donald Trump’s knowledge and participation.” The suit is the result of an investigation of possible “illegal business practices” launched by the AG’s office in 2011.
Unsurprisingly, Trump is claiming the lawsuit is nothing but a smear campaign, and took to Twitter to accuse Schneiderman — whom he refers to as a “lightweight” — of extortion.
“The attorney general has been angry because he felt that Mr. Trump and his various companies should have done much more for him in terms of fundraising,” said Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. “This entire investigation is politically motivated and it is a tremendous waste of taxpayers’ money.”
A website, 98percentapproval.com, has been set up in Trump’s defense, based on the percentage of students he said praised their experience with Trump University.
However, a look back at the past few years shows that this is not by far the first brush with the law for the for-profit institution. In 2o10, the New York State Department of Education demanded that the company — which was given a D- rating by the Better Business Bureau — change its name. “Use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,” wrote Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education Joseph Frey.
Then in 2011, the “school” — now renamed “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative — was hit with a class-action lawsuit, charging that “the primary lesson Trump University teaches its students is how to spend more money by buying more Trump Seminars.”
Considering that several state attorneys general — including Texas’ Greg Abbott — have also investigated the company for deceptive practices, it’s hard to take any of Trump’s claims against Schneiderman seriously. Then again, it’s doubtful that anyone blessed with even the most basic basic powers of reason ever would.