In what many are calling a “stunning reversal” following his election to office, President-elect Donald Trump agreed to settle Trump University fraud cases for $25 million on Nov. 18.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed the suit against Trump in 2014 for his “phony university,” said the President-elect has opted to settled the lawsuits for $25 million and pay $1 million in penalties to the state of New York for violating state education laws, The Washington Post reports.
“The victims of Trump University have waited years for today’s result, and I am pleased that their patience -- and persistence -- will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement.” Schneiderman said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
The cases involved a lawsuit in New York and two class action suits in California against the unlicensed university, which pledged to reveal Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” to students enrolled in the courses, according to media reports.
Schneiderman’s fraud lawsuit described the “university” as a scam that lured students to pay up to $35,000 for false promises of grandeur, claiming the closest students got to Trump was the ability to take a pictures with a cardboard cutout of the real estate mogul.
Trump repeatedly vowed not to settle the lawsuits during his campaign, even suggesting he may reopen the school, which had closed in 2010. The President-elect told supporters at a May 2016 rally he intended to testify at the San Diego trial, regardless of the results of the election, USA Today reports.
“I don’t settle cases," he said on MSNBC in March, responding to a question about Trump University, The Washington Post reports. "You know what happens? When you start settling lawsuits, everybody sues you. I don’t get sued because I don’t settle cases. I win in court.”
Despite claims to the contrary, a USA Today investigation revealed Trump had actually settled at least 259 times in lawsuits on public record since the 1980s. In hundreds more instances, court records indicated that legal disputes were resolved outside of court with the details shielded from public view.
U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, appointed to the two California cases, had urged both sides to settle in the Trump University hearings, according to Reuters. But the President-elect claimed Curiel, who was born to Mexican immigrants, could not be impartial in court hearings because of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a border wall.
“I’m building the wall, I’m building the wall,” Trump said to The New York Times in June 2016. “I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”
Trump faced criticism from both political parties for his remarks at the time, causing the businessman to release a statement that his words were “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” according to The Washington Post. He also argued he was justified in questioning the trial’s fairness, considering numerous rulings against him.
The Nov. 18 settlement came days before Trump’s expected appearance in court. While non-disclosure agreements or sealed records may conceal larger payouts, the $25 million settlement is the largest Trump payout on public record.
Chris Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah who spent the year studying the Trump University cases, told USA Today the settlement could be a political matter. If the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Congress would be capable of pursuing impeachment proceedings against the president-elect.
“That being said, the settlement will likely help the country turn the page on the sordid details of President-elect Trump's alleged fraud and avoid the embarrassment of his testimony and potential loss at trial,” Peterson said, USA Today reports.