Over the course of the 2016 Republican primary, Donald Trump has become known in some circles as "Teflon Don." He has a response, retort or insult waiting for anyone who would criticize or question his fitness to become President of the United States.
A large part of his appeal has been his rhetorical championing of blue-collar workers and manufacturing jobs. This angle has energized a large section of the Republican Party which had been left disappointed with previous candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain.
But as the sordid story of Trump University comes further into the public eye, it is becoming clear that Trump's praise for America's working-class citizens is only rhetorical. In practice, Trump University was an unscrupulous, for-profit school which employed unqualified instructors, deceived its students and targeted vulnerable students who lacked the financial expertise to see what they were getting into.
The "university," according to sales manager Ronald Schnackenberg, censured him for not being aggressive enough in trying to convince a financially-struggling couple to sign up for a $35,000 real estate class.
Documents related to Trump University were released under court order May 31, The New York Times reports. From beginning to end, there is virtually nothing about it which looks like honest business or a university giving students an honest chance at gaining an education.
One event manager, Corrine Sommer, said that her coworkers had encouraged students to open up as many credit cards as possible in order to pay for expensive classes they could not afford.
Another feature of the scam was the deceptive sales pitch used to lure students: that Donald Trump would be "actively involved" in their education. Former TU sales executive Jason Nicholas said that this was a "total lie." Instead, upon "graduation," students got to take their picture with a cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump.
Ryan Maddings, a former "star" student at Trump University -- and a student that Trump's legal team has pointed to as an example of a student who was "very pleased" with his TU training -- wrote in 2008 after attending a 3-day retreat that "Trump University is some [of] the best money I ever invested."
This year, an in interview with The Daily Beast, Maddings reevaluated his former praise, saying:
It was a lie.
It was a con. I’m 25-years-old, barely making $3,000 a month and they told me to increase my credit limit. I just maxed out three credit cards and I’m supposed to be able to qualify for loans to buy real estate? Those stupid principles have led me to borrow $700,000 of other people’s money and lose it all. I’m still paying off some of that debt to this day.
If Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to try to erode Trump's base of support, there is literally nothing better to bash the Republican candidate on than Trump University. It displays the kind of unscrupulous business tactics Trump has used here in the U.S. on working people, and his continued defense of what was clearly an attempt to separate the less financially savvy from their money shows that he feels absolutely no shame for it.
Hillary Clinton may not be perceived as a particularly trustworthy candidate by large sections of the American public, but the Trump University fiasco is likely to hurt Trump with many still undecided voters. If Clinton tries to hammer home the point that Donald Trump is not seriously concerned with American workers despite his rhetoric, Trump University is the best thing for her to use.