Donald J. Trump claimed he’ll win a lawsuit alleging his namesake real-estate school swindled students as documents unsealed in a related racketeering case showed the hard sell given hesitant prospects.
Trump University team members were told to answer a prospective student’s first excuse for not signing up, but to jump in before a second one. “Say, ‘Stop!!!’ It’s my job to get you to the next level,” according to one of the scripts in the school’s so-called sales playbook. “You will never get ahead in life with excuses. Mr. Trump won’t listen to excuses and neither will we.”
The presumptive Republican nominee for president said at a news conference in New York Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, who is overseeing both of the cases in California, "has been very unfair" and has "not done a good job."
"I could settle that case, I could have settled it," Trump said. "I just chose not to. In fact when I ran they said, ’Why don’t you settle that case?’ I don’t want to settle the case. Because you know what? Because I’m a man of principle, and most of the people who took those courses have letters saying they thought it was great, essentially."
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has also sued Trump claiming the university was a fraud, said different judges in California and New York all agreed the lawsuits should be allowed to continue.
“He keeps saying it’s an easy case to win, but he keeps losing,” Schneiderman said on CNN Tuesday.
There’s nothing the judge can do about Trump’s criticisms of him in the media, said Aaron Bloom, a lawyer with TroyGould in Los Angeles who isn’t involved in the case. If Trump were to make similar comments in the courtroom about Curiel being biased, though, the judge can hold him in contempt of the court.
"He obviously risks getting on the wrong side of the judge by being so insulting," Bloom said. "But most judges are professionals and will ignore what people say about them in the media."
Former students from California, Florida and New York accuse Trump and his now-defunct, for-profit school of making empty promises, including that they would be taught Trump’s investing secrets, to get them to pay as much as $35,000 for “elite” real-estate seminars.
Some of the students filed a fraud lawsuit in San Diego in 2010. That was followed by a racketeering lawsuit in 2013.
Curiel ruled this month that a jury trial in the fraud case will begin 20 days after the Nov. 8 presidential election. In the racketeering suit, the judge on Friday ordered more than 150 pages of documents from exhibits in the case unsealed, including "playbooks" that contain rules and procedures for Trump University events, scripts for engaging with customers and employee policies and procedures. Trump, saying the documents contained trade secrets, had sought to keep them secret.
The playbook documents spelled out precise requirements for payment and the presentations, including timing and seating. Trump University team members were told to focus on retention.
“Be sure to congratulate the buyer, shake hands, and make eye contact to ensure that they are cognizant of what a life changing decision they just made!” according to the playbook. “Get them excited.”
Team members were also told never to talk to reporters, except to refer them to the appropriate media contacts at the corporate office. The playbook also advised them to be courteous if an attorney general arrives, but that they are not required to show any personal information without a warrant.
The sales playbook instructed staff to never tell a prospective student specifically how long it will take to become successful. It also advises against providing details about what students will learn in advanced training, or examples of the types of deals they’ll be doing.
The Trump University events team was singled out for praise in the playbook.
“The Trump University Team is truly the best of the best, however Retreat &Special Events Team Members are the creme de la creme of the best of the best.”
The fraud case is Low v. Trump University LLC, 10-cv-00940. The racketeering case is Cohen v. Trump, 13-cv-02519. Both are in U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).