And tweeting on Saturday, the president-elect implied he could have been liable for more.
President-elect Donald Trump was hard at work tweeting on Saturday morning. The topics at hand? His opinions on dissent at the theater, and the massive fraud lawsuit he settled the day before.
On Friday, the president-elect agreed to pay out $25 million to settle a series of fraud cases brought by the students of Trump University, his for-profit education venture.
By itself, a president-elect settling a million-dollar case for fraud is wholly new territory for American democracy. The settlement deal, however, avoids what could have been an unprecedented spectacle: a president-elect on trial, taking the stand in his own defense.
The details of the lawsuit are extremely unsavory and potentially embarrassing for Trump.
Students of Trump University allege that they were fraudulently mislead about several aspects of the school, such as the extent of Trump’s involvement and whether it was a legally accredited university (it wasn’t). Some students maxed-out credit cards and wiped out their savings to pay program fees of up to $35,000, assured the program would help them start successful business careers.
Former employees testified that instead, the program delivered ill-qualified instructors paired with high-pressure sales tactics. In court, former employees called it a “lie” and a “scheme.”
The case has been churning through the legal system for years, at times intruding into Trump’s presidential campaign. But Trump repeatedly insisted that he would never settle the case.
“It’s something I could have settled many times,” Trump said during a Republican primary debate. “I could settle it right now for very little money, but I don’t want to do it out of principle.”
He even promised to reopen Trump University after winning the case.
Friday’s settlement is directly the opposite of what Trump said he would do throughout his campaign. Trump often brags that he never settles lawsuits (though an investigation by ThinkProgress found that claim to be false.)
A lawyer for Trump, Daniel Petrocelli, said after the settlement that the case was settled “without an acknowledgment of fault or liability,” according to the New York Times. But on Saturday morning, in addition to claiming that he settled the case “only” because he won the presidency, Trump also implied on Twitter that he could have been liable for much more money.
This too is an about-face of sorts — throughout his campaign Trump repeatedly denied that Trump University could possibly be thought fraudulent, and insisted that he was sure to win his case. While the spin in Trump’s tweet feeds into his brand of “winning” by spinning a settlement as a win, it also implies that he may, in fact, have been liable for the actual fraud.
According to the New York Times, about 7,000 former students will share in the settlement, and may be eligible to recoup at least half of what they spent on the program. Some may be able to get a full refund.