During the Republican primary, Donald Trump used the fact that he hadn’t settled his Trump University lawsuit as an argument that it was a bogus case.
“This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don’t settle cases very easily when I’m right,” the then-candidate and current president-elect said during one Republican debate in March.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio described Trump as your typical con man, at which point Trump responded “the real con artist is Senator Marco Rubio.” To repeat, Trump’s argument for why he was not a con man was that he would not settle this case.
“Again, I don’t settle cases. I don’t do it because that’s why I don’t get sued very often, because I don’t settle, unlike a lot of other people. We have a situation where we will win in court,” he said.
“You know what, let’s see what happens in court,” he added. “Let’s see what happens at the end of a couple years when this case is over, OK?”
So, yes. Very adamant. He was not settling! And this proved he wasn’t a con artist but rather just a put-upon businessman. No settlement. No con.
Who would have guessed, now that he has gained access to the greatest possible personal wealth enrichment lever in the planet by convincing less than a plurality of American voters and some 100,000 people in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan that he should be the most powerful man on earth, it is looking like a good time for him to settle that case?
“President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly bragged he never settles lawsuits despite a long history of doing so, is nearing a deal to end the fraud cases pending against his defunct real estate seminar program, Trump University, according to a person familiar with the negotiations,” the Washington Post reported.
The Post’s source said settlement terms would involve Trump paying $20 million to former Trump University customers who said they had been defrauded, with Trump admitting no wrongdoing.
The New York Daily News quoted its own source as saying the settlement would be between $20 and $25 million.
Reuters cited a source saying that Trump has already agreed to a $25 million settlement.
The lawsuit initially involved more than 5,000 students who said they had been swindled, some of whom had paid $35,000 for courses with real estate mentors who would be hand-picked by Trump. Some alleged that they were asked to raise their credit limits to pay for these additional classes.
As the Post reported in February:
About 80,000 people attended the free introductory seminar, and an additional 9,200 paid for the three-day seminars, according to [New York Attorney General Eric] Schneiderman’s lawsuit. About 800 paid as much as $35,000 for the advanced packages.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit blamed Trump University for running a scam program. Despite what was advertised, few instructors and mentors were successful real estate entrepreneurs, according to the lawsuit. In fact, many of them came to Trump University after their real estate investments caused them to declare bankruptcy. Former attendees filed complaints with attorneys general in several states, and 150 students signed affidavits in the Schneiderman lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who candidate Trump smeared on the campaign trail for his Mexican heritage, has reportedly been eager to find a settlement in the case. Curiel was set to consider on Friday Trump’s lawyers’ requests to delay the start of the trial from Nov. 28 until next year, arguing the transition process made a trial too much of a challenge at this point.
"The task is momentous, exceedingly complex, and requires careful coordination involving the respective staffs and teams of both President (Barack) Obama and President-Elect Trump," Trump's attorneys wrote in a court filing last week. "In fewer than three months, the President-Elect must be prepared to manage 15 executive departments, more than 100 federal agencies, 2 million civilian employees, and a budget of almost $4 trillion."
Before the election, his lawyers argued that a trial during the transition period would be preferable to a trial during the campaign itself.
Either way, that appears all to be moot. The man who says he doesn’t settle lawsuits—but has settled at least 13—and who says he doesn’t get sued—but has been sued or seen his businesses sued at least 1,450 times—will apparently settle this case.
Again, the timing is convenient: After he had used the promise not to settle to rebut the con allegations and before he claims the reins of a government that could see millions or billions steered to his own companies—which are still controlled by his children, one of whom is married to a man Trump reportedly wants to give top-level security clearance—and companies who do business with his own. But he can be trusted not to do that. Because he's not a con man. Because he's not going to settle that one lawsuit. That he apparently just agreed to settle.
Update, Nov. 18, 4:30 p.m.: Schneiderman has announced the details of the settlement: