Trump’s 'University' Offered Master Classes in Manipulation
Policy + Politics

Trump’s 'University' Offered Master Classes in Manipulation

Last week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren did terrible injustice to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Referring to comments he made about the state of the real estate market during the run-up to the Great Recession, she said, “Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown because it meant he could buy up more property on the cheap. What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house?”

Documents released by a federal court in California on Tuesday, though, show that Trump wasn’t just in it for himself -- he was rooting for the collapse of the housing market so that people paying him up to $35,000 to take a handful of courses as his so-called Trump University could profit as well.

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“Right now -- today -- as I am writing you this letter, there are hundreds of thousands of foreclosures all across the United States; thousands of properties are available for pennies on the dollar...thousands of dollars below market level. And when the market turns around -- and it will, believe me -- you’ll be mighty glad you were ready, and ahead of the game.”

That’s the opening paragraph from a letter to prospective attendees of a “Fast Track to Foreclosure Investing” seminar, an event that the documents show Trump used as a means of luring in potential Trump University students.

They would then be screened by Trump’s employees -- largely to see how much disposable income they had or how much they could persuade credit card companies to lend them -- and subjected to high-pressure sales techniques meant to convince them to sign up for as many seminars, retreats, and mentoring sessions as possible.

Now-defunct, Trump University sold dreams to vulnerable people -- those who had enough savings or credit to pay for thousands of dollars of “education” but not enough money to feel financially secure.

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The documents released by the courts on Tuesday are labeled “playbooks” for Trump University employees, and for the most part, they are guides to convincing people to part with ever-greater sums of money in exchange for the promise of secret knowledge that will allow them to achieve the sort of wealth that will make work unnecessary.

In other words, they’re a roadmap for relieving people of their savings and driving them into debt.

The nearly 400 pages of documentation released Tuesday are chock full of strategies for convincing people who are initially reluctant to shell out $34,955 for a Trump Gold Elite package that they not only want to “invest” in a Trump-branded education, but that they really ought to if they want to live the life of their dreams.

The “Sales Playbook” is probably the most likely to upset people unfamiliar with the techniques of high-pressure, boiler-room type operations. It offers tips and tricks for making potential buyers feel insecure and worried about their future as well as methods for persuading them to reveal details about their credit and finances.

All told, the documents paint a pretty vivid picture of why Trump University is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit filed by former students claiming they were peddled near-useless classes from instructors of dubious backgrounds, all sold with the claim that if Trump approved it, it must be the best.

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Folks familiar with Donald Trump’s masterful manipulation of the media will likely note that he picked Tuesday -- the day the court said it would release the documents -- to host a hugely contentious press conference in which he angrily berated the media for more than 40 minutes.

In doing so, he virtually guaranteed that news stories about the dubious practices of Trump University would be sharing space with stories about Trump claiming the media is completely biased against him.

Strangely, the Trump University “curriculum” offers no classes on media manipulation.