12:50pm PT by Ashley Cullins
President-Elect Settles Trump University Fraud Lawsuits for $25M
President-elect Donald Trump has reached a reported $25 million settlement with disgruntled former Trump University students — just 10 days before he was set to face a fraud trial in California federal court.
Reports that a settlement was near, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, began circulating early Friday morning, and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman later confirmed the speculation by issuing a statement.
The legal fight began in 2010, with thousands of former students claiming they were tricked into taking on debt to pay for a worthless education, under the guise that Trump had handpicked instructors and the program would help them have successful real estate careers. A parallel case was filed in New York, which is also resolved by this deal.
"Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university," said Schneiderman in the statement. "Today, that all changes. Today's $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university."
Schneiderman also noted that Trump "will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the state of New York for violating state education laws."
Shortly after Trump won the election, his attorney Daniel Petrocelli asked U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to delay the trial, which was set to begin Nov. 28, until after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 — arguing that preparing for the office would be "all consuming." The plaintiffs, who have spent six years fighting for a resolution, opposed the motion. A hearing on the issue is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., but it now appears to be moot.
It's not a surprise that Trump would settle the suit to take it off his plate before taking office, especially given his apparently contentious relationship with Curiel. Following a primary debate in which Marco Rubio took a shot at Trump and the lawsuit over his "fake school," the billionaire then pointed the finger at the court, saying he believed he was being unfairly treated by a Hispanic judge because of his stance on immigration. Curiel, of course, will have to approve any proposed settlement before it is official.
Also not surprising: It has been widely reported that in agreeing to the settlement, Trump has admitted no wrongdoing.
Petrocelli has not yet commented on the settlement.
Donald Trump later commented on the settlement, tweeting, "I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country."
The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
Nov. 18, 1:15 p.m. Updated with a comment from N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Nov. 19, 3 p.m. Updated with tweets from Donald Trump.