Judge directs internal Trump University documents to be released
WASHINGTON– A judge overseeing a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump regarding his closed real estate education program called Trump University has ruled parts of internal documents, including “playbooks” regarding running the enterprise, should be released as part of the case.
The playbooks, which include ones from 2009 and 2010, detail how the venture worked, how Trump University events were run and how to sell programs to customers.
From 2005 to 2010, when the program closed, about 10,000 students across the nation signed up for Trump University classes, which promised success in real estate by offering courses and seminars based on the principles of the businessman.
Now Trump University is the focus of two class action lawsuits in San Diego by some students who claim they were defrauded and a separate suit filed by the New York attorney general.
The order to release the internal documents comes in one of the California cases and is in response to a request by The Washington Post, which first reported the story Saturday afternoon.
Trump’s lawyers argued the information should not be disclosed because it involved trade secrets. However, in a ruling released Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel did not agree and said there is public interest now in this case. Since the proceedings first began, Trump “became the front-runner in the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race, and has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue,” Curiel wrote.
Trump defended Trump University as recently as Friday during a campaign rally in San Diego, where he attacked several of the judges involved in the case.
“The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily, everybody says it. But I have judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said of Curiel.
“I could have settled this case many times, but I don’t want to settle cases when we are 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 settler. One thing about me, I am not known as a settler,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump added, “The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine.”
Trump University courses ranged from $1,495 three-day seminars to $35,000 “Gold”-level programs that allowed for personal mentoring, real estate field trips and access to the expertise that made Trump a billionaire.
While Trump on Friday said many people were happy with the courses, affidavits filed in some of the cases show some students felt the program consisted of worthless information they could have obtained for free.
Trump’s attorney, Alan Garten, has previously told CNN many students were satisfied with the courses and the lack of success of some should not be attributed to the program.
“All we can do is provide the tools for people to go out there and apply these things,” Garten said. “I can’t control what happens out in the real world. If someone goes and takes our classes and decides to sit on their couch and not apply them, I can’t help that, OK?”
He also told CNN Trump University should not be blamed for some enrollees having trouble selling real estate during the 2008 economic crisis.
Several of the organizations which tried to prevent Trump from getting the Republican nomination, including Our Principles PAC and the American Future Fund, ran ads during the primaries touting criticism of Trump University and the ongoing litigation.
One of the documents ordered released — the 2010 playbook — has already been published online.
Curiel ruled the unsealed versions of the playbooks (with phone numbers and some email information redacted) should be released before Thursday.