Donald Trump went on the warpath Monday over accusations that his Trump University was a sham — even as angry former students stepped forward, calling the “school” a giant ripoff.
Trump blasted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a “political hack” for slapping the school with a $40 million fraud suit. Trump even suggested President Barack Obama might be behind the litigation. Schneiderman called Trump’s beef absurd.
Amid the accusations, the Daily News obtained a deposition that Trump gave last year in which he acknowledged that he didn’t know some key operational details of the school, which promised easy riches through his real estate techniques.
“Which of your real estate secrets were taught as part of the mentorship?” Trump was asked in the deposition, taken in connection with a federal lawsuit filed by several former students against Trump U.
ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES
'They [President Barack Obama and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman] meet on Thursday evening ... I get sued on Saturday at 1 o'clock. Think about it,' Donald Trump says is why he thinks the president was behind the fraud suit against Trump University.
“You’d have to ask Mr. Sexton. He has all that information,” Trump answered, referring to Michael Sexton, who was Trump U’s president.
In the deposition, Trump also could not detail what students received in return for paying $1,500 in the school’s apprenticeship program or what they got in the more expensive “Gold Elite” program. Nor could he recall his “10 steps for closing any real estate deal.”
“It’s been a long time ago,” he said.
But he had plenty to say about the quality of Trump U.
Former Trump University students spoke out Monday. Said Kevin Scott, who's allegedly out $25,000: 'It turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.'
“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” Trump said in the deposition, referring to the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. “I know a lot about education.”
Attending Trump U, he said, was “no different than going to Harvard.”
“They say go to Harvard, great school, blah, blah, blah, and I think this is — except I think we have a higher approval rating than Harvard if you want to know the truth.”
In his lawsuit, Schneiderman said Trump U victimized as many as 5,000 people with a classic “bait and switch” — promising to make students rich and then enticing them to pay as much as $35,000 for seminars that were largely useless.
This marketing letter, filed as an exhibit with the state of New York's lawsuit against Trump University, highlights promises the school allegedly made to potential students.
Trump launched a furious counterattack of tweets and TV appearances blasting Schneiderman and suggesting that Obama — who met the attorney general during a swing through upstate New York last week — had a role in the lawsuit.
“They meet on Thursday evening. I get sued by this AG Schneiderman, I get sued on Saturday at 1 o’clock. Think of it. What government agency in the history of this country has ever brought a suit on a Saturday?” Trump railed on “Fox and Friends.”
“Maybe it’s a mini IRS [scandal],” Trump said on CNN. “I am a Republican, I have been a critic.”
Advertisments like this allegedly enticed students to sign up with Trump University.
In one tweet, Trump claimed he was the victim of “Thug Politics.” In another, he called Schneiderman “a total sleazebag!”
Schneiderman denied any collaboration with Obama and called Trump’s claims nonsense.
“Prosecutors are all used to persons who commit fraud making wild accusations when they’re caught,” he said on CNN. “This is just an effort to distract from the substance of the case.”
Former students spoke out Monday, saying Trump had it coming.
Donald Trump's tweets started coming fast and furious Monday afternoon.
“They touted this as, ‘We have this whole thing set up. We are the experts. We know what we are doing. You go with us, we are going to make things a lot easier,’” said Kevin Scott, 44, of Westchester County, who claims he’s out $25,000.
“It turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”
Trump’s name “is synonymous with real estate,” Scott said.
“The thing they touted heavily was you bring us the deals, and we’ll get you the financing,” he said. “You can do this without your own money. And to this day, I still have no idea how this is possible.”
BILL BRAMHALL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Gregory Ryan, who has sued Trump University separately in Suffolk County Supreme Court, said he’s the victim of a $25,000 “ripoff.”
“We’ve all seen Donald Trump on TV,” said Ryan, 59. “He’s well known so that gave me a degree of trust … I thought that something with his name on it could help me make money, that it could help me out. But when I got into it I found out that was not true at all. I got left holding the bag.”
The News has learned that the plaintiffs in a California lawsuit will be in court Friday, asking a judge for permission to amend their case to bring civil charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.
The government typically uses RICO to pursue criminal cases, but private parties can also file civil RICO suits when they believe they have been victimized by a conspiracy. If successful in a civil RICO case, plaintiffs can collect triple damages.
Trump tried to short-circuit the lawsuit earlier this year by countersuing the lead plaintiff, Tarla Makaeff, for defamation. His lawyers argued that Makaeff had recorded testimonials in praise of Trump U. But an appeals court dismissed Trump’s challenge.
In an op-ed for The News, Schneiderman said that some students were “hounded” into giving favorable reviews of Trump U.