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Trump University

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  • Sunday Shows Gloss Over, Ignore Trump U. Settlement

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Sunday morning political shows barely addressed -- or completely ignored -- the recent settlement in the class-action fraud lawsuit against Trump University and President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, these outlets are continuing a pattern by broadcast and cable news of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business and charitable practices.

    On November 18, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the class-action fraud lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University in which the defendants alleged, according to the Los Angeles Times, that Trump “defrauded customers into thinking they would learn real estate secrets from professors he had ‘handpicked.’ The students said they learned little and instead were subjected to hard-sell tactics urging them to spend thousands of dollars on classes.”

    As NBC reported, “The settlement likely means that Trump will avoid becoming possibly the first sitting president to testify in open court.” The New York Times called the settlement “a remarkable concession” for Trump, “who derides legal settlements and has mocked fellow businessmen who agree to them.” The Times also pointed out that the settlement is a “significant reversal from Mr. Trump, who had steadfastly rejected the allegations and vowed to fight the lawsuits,” and that he “doubled down” on that response when “political opponents pressed him on the claims during the campaign, saying he would eventually reopen Trump University.”

    Despite the unusual nature of a president-elect settling a multimillion-dollar fraud lawsuit, the November 20 editions of the Sunday morning political talk shows -- including ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press -- barely covered the settlement. Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday did not mention the settlement at all, while This Week, State of the Union, and Meet the Press spent a combined total of merely four minutes and eight seconds on the news.

    The omission provides yet another example of media continuously ignoring new revelations and investigative reporting about Trump.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream for mentions of Trump University or Trump U. on the November 20 editions of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Mentions were coded and timed for length on Snapstream.

  • A $25 Million Settlement Just Tanked Right-Wing Media’s Fraudulent Defense Of Trump University

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    President-elect Donald Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits alleging his for-profit business Trump University used aggressive sales tactics and unqualified instructors to scam students. Throughout the lawsuit’s litigation, right-wing news outlets helped shield Trump University from criticism by enabling Trump to lie about the institution and aiding his racist attacks on the judge overseeing the case.

  • Wash. Post Op-Ed Exposes The Dangers Of Double Standard In Reporting On Trump Conflicts Of Interest

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Two former chief White House ethics lawyers, Richard Painter from the George W. Bush administration and Norman Eisen from the Obama administration, suggested that there is a media double standard evident in reporting on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. They noted that while Clinton’s “actual or apparent conflicts … have been disclosed and publicly vetted,” Trump’s potential conflicts of interest are significantly more “obscure, profound and dangerous.”

    Multiple investigations have revealed ethical issues regarding Trump: He used a charitable foundation in his name for personal gain, made an illegal donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), and ran a fake “university” that defrauded thousands of people. Despite Trump’s unique ethical problems, media continue to devote an overwhelmingly unbalanced amount of coverage to (debunked) Clinton pseudo-scandals, obsess over her “optics”, and draw false equivalencies between the Clinton Foundation and fraudulent Trump Foundation. 

    In a September 21 op-ed, Painter and Eisen wrote that “a Trump presidency would be ethically compromised” by, among other things, his “refusal to disclose his tax returns,” a “lack of divestment” from Trump-branded properties, and “Trump’s propensity for dishonesty.” Painter and Eisen conclude that while Clinton’s potential and actual conflicts of interest “have been disclosed and publicly vetted,” “They are nowhere near as obscure, profound and dangerous as Trump’s.” From the op-ed (emphasis original): 

    As government ethics lawyers who have, respectively, counseled the most recent Republican president and the most recent Democratic one, we have watched Donald Trump’s campaign with increasing concern. We have come to believe a Trump presidency would be ethically compromised for the following reasons:

    Opacity. Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns shields critical information about his finances that is not found in the basic details he is required to provide on his candidate financial disclosure. 

    [...]

    Lack of divestment. Trump has said that if elected he would have his children manage his business and would not discuss business matters with them. That is not sufficient. Presidents for the past half-century have either converted assets to simple, conflict-free holdings such as U.S. government bonds, adopted blind trusts or done both. 

    [...]

    Domestic conflicts. Without considerable additional detail about Trump’s finances, we cannot be sure his decisions on domestic matters would be conflict-free. 

    [...]

    Foreign conflicts. Even more serious are the questions raised by Trump investments abroad. Those relate to some of the United States’ most important — and most sensitive — relationships, among them ones with Russia, China, India, South Korea and Turkey. 

    [...]

    Legal exposure. Because of Trump’s seeming unwillingness to set up a true blind trust, and the difficulty of his doing so, his potential foreign conflicts could raise immediate legal issues.

    [...]

    Veracity. Finally, we must address Trump’s propensity for dishonesty. It is disturbing that just 15 percent of his statements checked by PolitiFact are “true” or “mostly true.” No ethics program can work if the client is not honest.

    To be sure, counsel for a President Hillary Clinton would have to address actual or apparent conflicts posed by the Clinton Foundation, but those have been disclosed and publicly vetted. They are nowhere near as obscure, profound and dangerous as Trump’s. The ethics lawyer who would have President Trump as his or her client would face a far more daunting task than either of us — or any of our colleagues in recent years — has ever confronted.

  • Florida Newspapers Call For Investigation Of Trump-Bondi Connection

    ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Florida editorial boards are calling for federal investigators to look into Florida Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi's connections with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The calls come in response to news that Bondi choose not to investigate Trump University after soliciting and receiving a donation from him in 2013. Trump was fined $2,500 by the IRS this year for violating the law prohibiting such donations.  

  • Wash. Post  Latest To Concede There’s No Actual Evidence Of Clinton Wrongdoing When It Comes To Laureate Education

    Post Still Spends 2,600-Plus Words Reporting A False Equivalence With Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a lengthy September 6 article, The Washington Post examined the connections between Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the Clintons’ private philanthropic foundation, and former President Bill Clinton’s work as honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities, a network of for-profit colleges located predominantly in Latin America. Although the Post found no evidence of wrongdoing, its report comes as conservative outlets from Fox News to Breitbart News continue to falsely frame the non-scandal as a smoking gun akin to the numerous allegations of fraud facing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Trump University business.

    The report acknowledged at its start that there is “no evidence” of any pay-to-play relationship between Laureate and the State Department, despite numerous evidence-free suggestions to the contrary from Fox News, media figure Roger Stone (an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump), and other right-wing outlets.

    The Post’s 2,600-plus-word piece on Laureate echoed its own earlier reporting and an extensive PolitiFact piece that ultimately found the Clintons’ relationship with Laureate Education and its schools to be essentially another trumped-up “optics issue. Unfortunately, by largely rehashing what is already known, even with the exculpatory facts mentioned, such reporting feeds the persistent right-wing media efforts to attack the Clintons, which have trickled into mainstream outlets as a flawed attempt to exhibit balance in journalism.

    In fact, the Post even explained that allegations related to Laureate originated from the discredited anti-Clinton book Clinton Cash, and that they were subsequently repeated and further distorted by the Trump campaign and right-wing media coverage. The paper cited its prior fact check that found Trump’s Laureate talking points “by all accounts … false.” And it noted that conservative efforts to “draw parallels between Laureate and Trump University” are flawed, in part due to a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing at Laureate. The paper explained that grants Laureate received from the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state were reportedly arranged before she took office:

    The Clintons’ Laureate connection emerged as a campaign issue earlier this summer, when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump charged that Hillary Clinton “laundered money” to her husband by funneling tens of millions of dollars in federal grants to Laureate while she was secretary of state.

    By all accounts, Trump’s claim was false, and his campaign did not respond to requests for documentation.

    The company says its campuses have received about $1.4 million total over the years in grants from the State Department and its international aid arm, USAID. Of that amount, only $15,000 came while Clinton was secretary of state — student scholarships funded by USAID, Laureate said.

    Publicly available grant records are not detailed enough to corroborate Laureate’s exact numbers. But the records do show that neither Laureate nor any of its campuses has received any individual grants larger than $25,000 from the State Department or USAID.

    Trump appeared to be drawing on — and misrepresenting — a report in the 2015 book “Clinton Cash” that grants from USAID to a separate charity chaired by Becker, the Laureate founder, increased during the Clinton years.

    Founded in 1989, the International Youth Foundation has partnered with Laureate campuses in some of its charitable education work. The group has received USAID funding since 1999, and its president said the increase in USAID funding under Clinton was largely a result of the receipt of multi-year grants awarded before she entered office. There is no evidence Hillary Clinton played a role in the grants, and the group’s president, William Reese, said no government money went to Laureate or Becker.

    Though some Republicans tried to draw parallels between Laureate and Trump University, the real estate seminar company founded by Trump that faces multiple fraud investigations, Laureate is a different sort of business.

    The Post also referenced Clinton's decision -- which had been reported previously -- to invite a representative from Laureate to a State Department dinner on global higher education policy in 2009. But that seems to be the strongest example cited in the article of any direct contact between Hillary Clinton and Laureate Education. And even the expert cited by the Post admitted that, if in retrospect “it does seem unseemly,” Laureate representatives “were clearly a legitimate participant in this sort of event.”

    Meanwhile, the extent of Trump’s personal involvement in the Trump University business is precisely what has spurred ongoing fraud lawsuits against the company.

  • Trump Suddenly Encounters Media Attention He Doesn’t Want

    Citing “Sensationalism,” Trump’s Lawyers Fight To Keep Trump U. Videos Away From Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A media coalition is pushing for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release video of his depositions in lawsuits against Trump University, his now-defunct real estate seminar business, but the candidate’s lawyers have expressed concern that the footage would be “used by media and others in connection with the presidential campaign.”

    On June 11, a coalition of media organizations filed a motion seeking the public release of video footage from Trump’s taped depositions connected to two of the three lawsuits Trump University currently faces. The coalition included all major television networks, aside from Fox News, and several major newspaper publishers. Fox News joined the effort yesterday.

    In response, Trump’s lawyers in the two related class-action lawsuits presided over by Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- whom Trump himself has attacked with racist remarks -- argued that media and rival groups would use the video footage out of context to smear Trump. As Politico reported:

    In a court filing late Wednesday night, Trump's attorneys argued explicitly for the first time that the deposition videos should be kept under wraps because they would become weapons in the ongoing presidential contest.

    "Undoubtedly, these videos...will be used by the media and others in connection with the presidential campaign," Trump's attorneys wrote in a motion filed with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego.

    "'[V]ideotapes are subject to a higher degree of potential abuse than transcripts. They can be cut and spliced and used as "soundbites" on the evening news or sports shows....' And unlike in other cases where it was unclear that 'out of context snippets' would be broadcast because the 'media frenzy' around the case had died down...the 'media frenzy' surrounding this case is certain to continue through the election," Trump's legal team added, quoting cases from federal trial courts in Indiana and New York.

    [...]

    "The need to prevent such 'sensationalism' is particularly acute here because of Mr. Trump’s unique circumstances in running for President of the United States," wrote Trump attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and David Kirman of law firm O'Melveny & Myers and in-house Trump lawyer Jill Martin. They cited a federal appeals court ruling rejecting a media bid for access to videos of President Bill Clinton's testimony played in court during a criminal case related to the Whitewater affair.

    This is a notable shift from the Trump campaign’s previous attitude about the huge amount of media attention he receives. In March, The New York Times released a study showing that Trump had racked up $2 billion worth of free earned media throughout his presidential campaign to that point, and the paper stated that “he is far better than any other candidate -- maybe than any candidate ever -- at earning media.” Trump won the Fox Primary, doubling any other Republican presidential primary candidate in airtime on the news channel. Trump’s campaign has bragged about all the free media he has received, and it reportedly plans to “just use earned media to compete on the airwaves” instead of raising money for ads. But perhaps what Trump truly wants is only adulation, not actual scrutiny from the media.

     
  • Fox News Joins Media Coalition Asking For Release Of Trump U. Depositions

    Fox’s Move Ensures Right-Wing Media Spin Of Trump Deposition

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News joined a media coalition asking the judge in the Trump U. fraud case to release videos of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump being questioned over the real estate program. The move by Fox comes after defending Trump from allegations of fraud surrounding the Trump U. controversy.

    On June 11 Politico reported that a number of media organizations asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel to release video of Trump’s testimony in the Trump U. case. Lawyers for the media coalition argued that the lawsuit “has become a prominent election issue” and that Trump himself had cited Trump U. “as an example of his business success.” The initial coalition included all major TV news networks except for Fox News, as well as newspaper publishers from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Tribune Publishing.

    On June 15, Politico reported that Fox News joined the effort, stating that they were not aware of the request and became interested in joining as soon as they learned of the move:

    Fox News is joining a media coalition seeking to obtain full access to depositions presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave in a class-action lawsuit over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

    When an array of news organizations moved last week to loosen restrictions on the deposition transcripts and videos, all the major news networks were part of the effort, except for Fox. Also on board were the New York Times, the Washington Post and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

    In a filing Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, lawyers for the media coalition said Fox was joining the consortium supporting the drive to remove confidential designations on parts of Trump's testimony. If those restrictions are lifted, either side in the case would be free to release the transcripts in their entirety and likely the videos of the depositions as well.

    Fox News’ decision to join the media coalition now ensures that right-wing media can continue their struggle to defend Trump by selectively using any video released.