Hillary Clinton isn’t the only presidential candidate dealing with legal problems. Yahoo News is reporting on multiple lawsuits being dealt with by Donald Trump, including a class action suit whose lead plaintiff claims that Trump has been threatening her with financial ruin.
The accusation was made in a motion by the woman — Tarla Makaeff, a California yoga instructor — to withdraw as lead plaintiff, asserting she has been “put through the wringer” by Trump and his lawyers and forced to “suffer daily with the fear that she could be bankrupted by Trump.”
Exactly what Trump said in his December deposition is unclear. The transcript is sealed and the excerpt cited by Makaeff’s lawyers was blacked out in the copy of the filing obtained by Yahoo News. The motion in support of Makaeff’s effort to back out of the suit claims she needs protection “from further retaliation” by the billionaire, who is leading in the polls for the Republican nomination for president.
The underlying class action lawsuit, filed in 2010, charges that Makaeff and thousands of other students were “scammed” into maxing out their credit cards and paying up to $60,000 in fees for seminars in hotel ballrooms and “mentoring” by Trump’s “hand-picked” real estate experts. The lawsuit against the school, which is no longer in business, alleges the seminars turned into little more than an “infomercial” and the Trump mentors she was assigned offered “no practical advice” and “mostly disappeared.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a separate suit in 2013 alleging fraud on the part of the “university,” which was never an accredited institution and awarded no degrees.
Trump’s lawyers have vigorously denied the claims and vowed to contest both suits.
“None of it is true. No one was defrauded,” said Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, in an interview about the fraud cases last summer. “The people that take these classes go into it with their eyes open. A lot of people did very well with [Trump University.] A lot of people enjoyed it. But, like everything else, if people don’t put the effort into it [they don’t succeed].”
In other words, caveat emptor, baby. Most of us would see that as predatory capitalism, and along with the bullying, it fits Trump to a “T.”
In addition to the hundreds of plaintiffs in the suit against Trump University, there are Trump’s own efforts to strike back in court against his enemies:
Trump has made little secret of his inclination to strike back hard — on the campaign trail and in the courts — against anybody who opposes him. But the secret deposition in the San Diego case calls attention to the danger that a Trump presidency could turn into what one lawyer who has sued Trump called a “litigation circus” in which a sitting president would be forced to submit to multiple depositions and even jury trials as a result of ongoing civil lawsuits.
Little noticed while he has emerged as the Republican frontrunner for president, Trump remains mired in litigation on multiple fronts. In addition to defending the Trump University suits, he has initiated legal action in the past year against restaurateurs and the Univision network after they pulled out of business deals over his comments about Mexican immigrants. He has also recently threatened to sue rival Ted Cruz on the grounds that he is not eligible to be president because he was born in Canada. At a CNN forum Thursday night, in response to a question about his propensity to threaten opponents with lawsuits, Trump replied, in part, “I have wonderful lawyers. I like to send letters.”
Trump’s legal difficulties are more of a distraction than anything else. Hillary Clinton is mired in a legal nightmare with potential criminal charges on the way. So from that standpoint, the two candidates are dealing with totally separate issues.
But delving into Trump’s legal issues reveals this cold observation: the lawsuits and what’s behind them should concern Republican primary voters going forward. He is using the law as a club to get back at his enemies.
Is this really a quality Republicans want in their nominee?