‘Stun­ning re­ver­sal’ in Trump U suits

Pres­i­dent-elect agrees to $25 mil­lion set­tle­ment; stu­dents will get re­funds

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump agreed Fri­day to pay $25 mil­lion to set­tle sev­eral law­suits against his now-de­funct school for real es­tate in­vestors, avert­ing a trial in a po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing case that he had vowed dur­ing the cam­paign to keep fighting.

If ap­proved by a judge, the deal an­nounced by New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man would lay to rest al­le­ga­tions that Trump Univer­sity de­frauded stu­dents who paid up to $35,000 to en­roll in pro­grams that promised to share Trump’s se­crets real es­tate se­crets.

The deal would set­tle a law­suit Sch­nei­der­man filed three years ago and two class-ac­tion law­suits filed in Cal­i­for­nia on be­half of for­mer stu­dents.

The com­plaints ac­cused the pro­gram of mis­lead­ing stu­dents by call­ing it­self a univer­sity when it was not

an ac­cred­ited school and by say­ing Trump “hand­picked” in­struc­tors.

Trump has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and re­peat­edly said he would not set­tle. He told sup­port­ers at a May rally that he would come to San Diego to tes­tify af­ter win­ning the pres­i­dency.

“I could have set­tled this case nu­mer­ous times, but I don’t want to set­tle cases when we’re right. I don’t be­lieve in it. And when you start set­tling cases, you know what hap­pens? Ev­ery­body sues you be­cause you get known as a set­tler. One thing about me, I am not known as a set­tler,” Trump said at the time.

The deal does not re­quire Trump to ac­knowl­edge wrong­do­ing.

In a state­ment is­sued late Fri­day, Trump’s at­tor­neys said they had “no doubt” that Trump Univer­sity would have pre­vailed in a trial, but “res­o­lu­tion of these mat­ters al­lows Pres­i­dent-elect Trump

to de­vote his full at­ten­tion to the im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing our great na­tion.”

Sch­nei­der­man said the $25 mil­lion to be paid by Trump or one of his busi­ness en­ti­ties in­cludes resti­tu­tion for vic­tims and $1 mil­lion in penal­ties to the state.

Trump “fought us ev­ery step of the way, fil­ing base­less charges and fruit­less ap­peals and re­fus­ing to set­tle for even mod­est amounts of com­pen­sa­tion for the vic­tims of his phony univer­sity. To­day, that all changes,” Sch­nei­der­man said in a state­ment.

He called the set­tle­ment “a stun­ning re­ver­sal by Don­ald Trump and a ma­jor vic­tory for the over 6,000 vic­tims of his fraud­u­lent univer­sity.”

Plain­tiffs’ at­tor­ney Ja­son Forge says all 6,000 peo­ple in the class-ac­tion case will get at least half their money back, and some will re­ceive a full refund.

Forge said he “def­i­nitely de­tected a change of tone and change of ap­proach” from Trump’s camp af­ter the elec­tion.

A fed­eral judge in Cal­i­for­nia

had been set Fri­day to con­sider ar­gu­ments on Trump’s lat­est re­quest to de­lay a trial un­til af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion on Jan. 20. Af­ter the set­tle­ment was an­nounced, the trial was can­celed.

The Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion is a party to nu­mer­ous law­suits that threaten to prove a dis­trac­tion to his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The set­tle­ment comes a day af­ter watch­dog groups and ethics ex­perts who served in both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions sent a let­ter to Trump urg­ing him to make a clean break from his busi­ness to avoid “em­broil­ing the pres­i­dency in lit­i­ga­tion.”

One of the au­thors, Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer at the White House un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said he thinks the Trump Univer­sity set­tle­ment might back­fire if lawyers think Trump is ea­ger to set­tle to avoid court cases while pres­i­dent.

“The plain­tiffs’ lawyers are go­ing to smell blood in the wa­ter,” he said.

Trump’s at­tor­neys said

in a court fil­ing last week that prepa­ra­tions for the White House were “crit­i­cal and all-con­sum­ing.” Six months ago, when they un­suc­cess­fully sought a de­lay un­til af­ter In­au­gu­ra­tion Day, lead at­tor­ney Daniel Petro­celli said the pe­riod be­tween the elec­tion and swear­ing-in is hec­tic for a pres­i­dent-elect but that it was prefer­able to a trial dur­ing the cam­paign.

“The task is mo­men­tous, ex­ceed­ingly com­plex, and re­quires care­ful co­or­di­na­tion in­volv­ing the re­spec­tive staffs and teams of both Pres­i­dent Obama and Pres­i­dent-elect Trump,” Trump’s at­tor­neys wrote. “In fewer than three months, the Pres­i­dent-elect must be pre­pared to man­age 15 ex­ec­u­tive de­part­ments, more than 100 fed­eral agen­cies, 2 mil­lion civil­ian em­ploy­ees, and a bud­get of al­most $4 tril­lion.”

Trump’s at­tor­neys also raised the prospect of hav­ing the pres­i­dent-elect tes­tify by video record­ing be­fore the trial be­gins in the class-ac­tion law­suit on Nov. 28.

AP FILE

Don­ald Trump, left, lis­tens as Michael Sex­ton in­tro­duces him at a May 2005 news con­fer­ence in New York about the es­tab­lish­ment of Trump Univer­sity.

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