If there is one thing that really gets under Donald Trump’s mealy skin, it’s when Marco Rubio—anyone really, but especially Marco Rubio—brings up the failed and allegedly fraudulent “Trump University.”
Right now, Trump is facing two multimillion dollar lawsuits stemming from what New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman described as Trump’s real estate “bait and switch” beginning with a free, 90-minute seminar. As I wrote for The Awl today:
The ninety-minute seminar, it turned out, was actually just an upsell for another seminar, this one three days long, which cost $1,495, and which would supposedly constitute “the last real estate education you will ever need for the rest of your life.” That is excepting, of course, the three “Trump Elite Packages” that followed: the $9,995 Bronze Elite program; the $19,495 Silver Elite program; and the $34,995 Gold Elite program. If prospective students expressed concern about being able to afford the more expensive programs, the attorney general alleges, they were encouraged to call their banks to request an increase of their credit cards’ borrowing limits. Instructors, some of whom were presented as “Donald Trump’s personal real estate coaches,” frequently insinuated that Trump himself was likely to make an appearance during the three-day seminar. Instead, students got the chance to take a photograph with a life-size cutout photo of the billionaire developer. Students were also told that the “university” was a philanthropic endeavor, but according to the AG, Trump made about $5 million from Trump University.
During Thursday’s debate, Trump tried to invoke the approval of the Better Business Bureau, which at one point did give Trump University an A rating, before downgrading it to a D-minus. That was the last publicly available grade for the operation, which in 2010 changed its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. There is no publicly available rating for the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.
Trump also tried to invoke the ninety-eight percent approval rating from students, but that number comes from a survey administered by none other than Trump University itself. Megyn Kelly swiftly quashes that line of argument with a line from an appeals court decision comparing students of Trump University to victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme: “Victims of con artists often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they’ve been fleeced.”