Donald Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle three lawsuits against Trump University.
The deal will keep the president-elect from having to testify in a trial in San Diego that was set to begin November 28.
The settlement ends a suit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as well as two class action suits in California. About 6,000 former students are covered by the settlement.
Trump University’s ‘top’ instructor’s job was to sell, not teach
Former Trump University instructor James Harris told students that he was Donald Trump’s “top nationwide instructor and mentor” and “his number one guy.” But he was a “top guy” for his salesmanship, not his real estate expertise.
In an interview, Harris admitted that his main job wasn’t to teach real estate, it was to sell real estate seminars. And while the school claimed its instructors were real estate experts that were handpicked by Trump himself, Harris has little-related experience that CNN could verify.
Students who enrolled in Trump University programs sometimes paid as much as $35,000 hoping to be taught the real estate mogul’s secrets to success. But much of what was taught at seminars were scripted presentations, and the real goal was to get attendees to sign up and pay for another event.
Harris said he served as a motivational “platform speaker” and trainer at free introductory workshops and two- to three-hour training sessions that were held in hotels and ballrooms.
“My job was to present all of the material that they told me to present. And absolutely motivate them to get registered and enrolled into the programs. That’s any sales position at any company, that’s your job,” Harris told CNN.
Many of the people enrolled at Trump U were elderly, he noted. And among the things instructors taught were ways students could come up with the money to invest, including raising credit card limits, tapping a home’s equity or dipping into a 401(k) or IRA.
“But when it comes to taking money from anybody, not just from elderly people: If somebody is showing up to an event or hiring a consultant or a doctor or a lawyer, there’s obviously fees that have to be paid for their products and services like any other business,” he said. “So when it comes down to: Do I feel bad for doing my job? Absolutely not. That’s my job.”
In one email exchange, which was filed as part of a lawsuit, Harris wrote to a colleague: “I just spoke to Austin and Irene the older retired couple who had to pull the $30k balance for the GOLD AND SHE SAID IT IS DONE and should be in by Mon so that will B another $35K … We will easily have another $100K hit by Friday. Yahoo!”
His associate responds: “We’ve always been a dangerous team, brother man!! These peeps don’t have a chance against us :)”
When asked about the email, Harris said the exchange was a “typical sales email between two salespeople working on a deal.”
While Trump University promised the “best of the best’ in its instructors, it still hired Harris — who is a convicted felon. He was charged with aggravated assault for ramming into someone’s truck with his own in 2000, about eight years before he started working at the school. Trump University did pull a background check on Harris, but the investigators did not flag his criminal record. They also appear not to have been able to verify whether he graduated from high school, though Harris tells CNN that he did graduate. The report didn’t uncover any real estate experience either, according to court records.
He was charged with aggravated assault for ramming into someone’s truck with his own in 2000, about eight years before he started working at the school. Trump University did pull a background check on Harris, but the investigators did not flag his criminal record. They also appear not to have been able to verify whether he graduated from high school, though Harris tells CNN that he did graduate. The report didn’t uncover any real estate experience either, according to court records.