ALBANY, N.Y. — Donald Trump on Monday defended his Trump University as a booming success for student entrepreneurs and blasted New York’s attorney general, who called it a scam.
“We have a terrific school. It’s done a fantastic job,” Trump told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We have a 98 percent approval rating among students.”
Trump held several TV interviews to further contest the lawsuit filed Saturday by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which alleges the real estate mogul helped run a phony university that promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars.
“This is a political hack looking to get publicity,” Trump said.
Schneiderman, in response, said Trump was making wild accusations, just like others who commit fraud and get caught. He said the accusations were Trump’s attempt to distract the public from the fraud case.
Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Schneiderman was upset the reality TV star didn’t give him more campaign contributions, which he claims Schneiderman sought even while investigating Trump University. Cohen called it extortion.
Trump, in interviews with “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today,” denied Schneiderman’s claims that he never met with students and didn’t pick instructors
“I was totally involved to a very high degree,” he said. “I told people what to do, and if they had listened to me, it would have made a lot of money.”
Schneiderman is suing Trump and Trump University for $40 million, accusing them of engaging in persistent fraud, illegal and deceptive conduct and violating federal consumer protection law. He says the developer of hotels, casinos and more also failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.
State Education Department officials had told Trump to change the name of his enterprise years ago, saying it lacked a license and didn’t meet the legal definitions of a university. In 2011, it was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Institute.
Schneiderman claims many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump, but instead, all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of “The Apprentice” star.
That’s at odds with Trump’s contention that 98 percent of students surveys rated the program as “excellent.”
One former student who once praised the program as “amazing” and “excellent” is now suing Trump and Trump University in California. Tarla Makaeff of San Diego is representing herself and some other former students who claim the program didn’t fulfill its promise of insider expertise.
The judge noted in a ruling on a motion during the ongoing lawsuit that in other cases, “victims of con artists often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they have been fleeced.”
Trump said he will continue to fight Schneiderman, who he said badmouthed fellow Democrats including President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“He thought I would settle the lawsuit,” Trump said. “I didn’t want to settle the lawsuit on principal.”