People For the American Way

Trump Protects Fraudulent Trump University with Racist Attacks, Possible Bribes

Donald Trump will seemingly stop at nothing to try to get what he wants at the expense of everyone else.

At this point, in the public eye, Trump University is seen for what it was: a scam university used to pad Trump’s pockets by deceiving students. The school offered no real degree, it lied to students about the caliber of its professors and it systematically targeted potential students who Trump University employees knew would have to take on debt or empty their retirement savings in order to pay for it.

But even with universal condemnation, Trump University has suffered no legal repercussions for its con. 

Now, though, Trump University is facing three lawsuits. One of these is a class action suit in California. Trump responded to the case in typical fashion: by launching racist, personal attacks. He baselessly attacked the federal judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, accusing him of not being able to preside over the case impartially simply because of his Mexican-American heritage.

It seems though that the racist attacks were only his backup plan. In at least two states, it appears that Trump acted before any charges reached the courts: Trump engaged in pay-to-play with attorneys general to get them to drop any possible actions against Trump University.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview that NPR’s Robert Siegel did with Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker about Texas’ decision not to prosecute Trump University:

Biesecker: Well, in Texas, public records obtained by the Associated Press show that there was a very robust investigation of Trump University and that lawyers in [then-Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott's own Consumer Affairs Division proposed suing Trump and his associates for about $5.4 million in fines and restitution back to their alleged victims. The case files show that they spent more than a year investigating Trump University, had what they considered very strong evidence that Trump University had violated numerous state laws and was operating in the state without a license.

Ultimately, people above the Consumer Affairs Division decided not to take action. Abbott denies that he knew of his agency's investigation or that he decided to drop the suit. What AP has reported is that three years later when he ran for governor of Texas, Mr. Trump put forward two checks to his campaign totaling $35,000.

SIEGEL: You can't demonstrate a quid pro quo here that either in the Texas or the Florida case somebody said, you drop the case; I give you money.

BIESECKER: We can't, but the former deputy chief of consumer protection of Texas, a man named John Owens, stepped forward and was quoted in local media there saying that he believes the case was dropped for political considerations because Mr. Trump was a donor of Republican causes.

In Florida, it looks even worse. From that same interview:

BIESECKER: Well, in 2013, Pam Bondi – the attorney general's office was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying they were reviewing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's proposed lawsuit against Trump University to determine whether Florida should join that multi-state case. Four days after that appeared in the newspaper, Bondi's campaign account notes that it received a $25,000 check from the Trump Foundation, the family foundation of Donald Trump.

It was subsequently reported that Bondi herself may have been involved in soliciting the contribution, so it should be deeply troubling (but not all that surprising) that Bondi chose not to sue. These allegations were first reported earlier this summer. If all this wasn’t bad enough, this story is finally picking up steam because not only does it seem that Trump potentially bribed Bondi, he made the suspicious donation to Bondi’s campaign from the Trump Foundation.

That’s blatantly against the law. Nonprofit foundations, which are tax exempt, cannot in any way, shape, or form contribute to political candidates! This isn’t some murky situation where the law wasn’t clear—foundations are nonprofits, and they cannot engage in political campaign work, much less make a direct contribution. But as Trump has made clear time and time again, he doesn’t care what the rules are or who he hurts along the way, as long as he gets his way.

Trump had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the IRS because of the donation. This is far from the first time Trump has found himself in deep water over campaign contributions (as just one example, in the 1990s he spent $47,050 over the campaign contribution limit in just one year). With the allegations against Bondi and Abbott, and with renewed focus on the Trump Foundation’s payment to the Bondi campaign, this story won’t go away any time soon. But if there’s one silver lining, it’s that as more and more details emerge about the pay-to-play schemes and the fraudulent university, voters can hold Trump responsible in the polls, and judges can hold Trump responsible in the courts.