Now that he’s settling into his new role as president-elect, Donald Trump may settle some other outstanding business, too. Reuters reported earlier today that Trump’s lawyers have come close to settling outstanding lawsuits over Trump University, an issue that came up in his presidential campaign in more ways than one. Now that the election’s over, Trump may shell out as much as $20 million to make the issue disappear permanently:
President-elect Donald Trump is nearing a settlement of about $20 million in fraud lawsuits relating to Trump University, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Lawyers for the president-elect have been squaring off against students who claim they were they were lured by false promises into paying up to $35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.
There are three lawsuits relating to Trump University: two class actions in California and a case brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. All would be covered in the possible settlement, the person said.
If Trump was willing to spend $20 million settle this, people might ask, why not do it before the primaries? He’s in a tighter spot now with his presidency about to launch, which puts him in a poorer position for negotiation. Had the lawsuit been settled a year ago, we never would have had the personal attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s heritage, plus Trump could have ensured that anyone wishing to participate as a class member would need to refrain from public comment as part of a settlement. It’s worth noting that Judge Curiel has been exhorting both sides to settle for a long time, to little avail until now.
One explanation would be that Trump didn’t expect to win anyway, and didn’t want to spend any money settling the case if he could avoid it. To be fair, though, another equally good explanation might be that he didn’t want to settle the case and pay anything during the election and have it be a tacit admission of guilt. Settling it now after the election could be seen as taking one for the good of the nation now that he’s been elected, and as clearing the decks for a singular focus on voter priorities.
Of course, there’s also a certain amount of self-preservation in this decision either way. Trump could have been forced to testify in the case had it gone to trial, and that could have gone … badly. That decision was coming today, in Curiel’s court, and Trump can thank Bill Clinton for the answer he was about to get:
It seems as though Trump learned the correct lesson in this case. Clinton was too stubborn to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit and thought he could bluff his way out of it. He ended up perjuring himself, got disbarred, impeached, and nearly kicked out of office. At the time, many wondered how a man with his political instincts (and deep-pocketed donors) couldn’t see that danger coming. Trump apparently does, and he’s willing to cough up a lot of dough to make sure he doesn’t end up in the same trap.
Update: Done deal:
BREAKING: New York AG: In a "stunning reversal" by Pres.-elect Trump, a $25M settlement agreement has been reached in Trump Univ. case. pic.twitter.com/2AQkdbsSxb
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) November 18, 2016