During Thursday’s GOP presidential debate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said Trump University is a “fake school” where students who paid up to $50,000 were promised they would meet Trump, but instead “got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout.” Many of the students are now suing. Rubio urged viewers to google “Trump University.” We get details from The Intercept’s Lee Fang, who reports Trump could be forced away from the campaign trail to testify in the case. He says mostly low-income students had enrolled in Trump University. “It shows Trump’s contempt for working-class people that he would scam people in this way,” Fang notes. He also discusses his recent piece, “Marco Rubio, Following Donor Dollars, Frequently Veers from Limited-Government Dogma.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn back now to Thursday night’s Republican debate, the last one before the Super Tuesday primary. This is Florida Senator Marco Rubio attacking Donald Trump for suggesting he wouldn’t mind a trade war with Mexico if they refused to pay for his border wall. This clip begins with Rubio.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I don’t understand, because your ties and the clothes you make is made in Mexico and in China. So you’re going to be starting a trade war against your own ties and your own suits.
DONALD TRUMP: Right. That’s right. That’s right. You know why?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: All right. Why don’t you make them in America?
DONALD TRUMP: Because they devalue their currencies.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: No.
DONALD TRUMP: They devalue their currencies.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, then make them in America.
DONALD TRUMP: That makes it—well, you don’t know a thing about business. You lose on everything you do.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, make them in America.
DONALD TRUMP: Let me just tell you, they devalue their currencies—China, Mexico, everybody, Japan, with the cars.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well—
DONALD TRUMP: They devalue their currencies to such an extent that our businesses cannot compete with them, our workers lose their jobs.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: And so make them in China and in Russia.
DONALD TRUMP: But you wouldn’t know anything about it, because you’re a lousy businessman.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, I don’t know anything about bankrupting four companies.
DONALD TRUMP: All right.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: You’ve bankrupted four companies.
DONALD TRUMP: No, I know. You know what? You know what?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I don’t know anything about—
DONALD TRUMP: And you know what? That’s called using—
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: —starting a university that was a fake university.
WOLF BLITZER: One at a time.
DONALD TRUMP: First of all, first of all—
WOLF BLITZER: One at a time.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: A fake university.
DONALD TRUMP: That’s called—
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: There are people who borrow $36,000—
DONALD TRUMP: Let me just tell you, that—
WOLF BLITZER: Hold on. One at a time, Mr. Trump.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: —to go to Trump University, and they’re suing him now. $36,000 to go to a university—
DONALD TRUMP: And by the way—and by the way—
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: —that’s a fake school.
DONALD TRUMP: And by the way—
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: And you know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: I’ve won most of the lawsuit.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: That’s what they got for the $36,000.
DONALD TRUMP: And by the way, I’ve won most of the lawsuit.
WOLF BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.
DONALD TRUMP: And they actually did a very good job, but I’ve won most of the lawsuit.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio at the Republican debate last night in Houston, Texas.
For more, we’re going to San Francisco, where we’re joined by the man who follows the money, The Intercept’s Lee Fang, covering the intersection of money and politics. His recent pieces are headlined “Marco Rubio, Following Donor Dollars, Frequently Veers from Limited-Government Dogma” and also a piece on Hillary Clinton, the “TV Pundits [Praise] Hillary Clinton On Air, Fail to Disclose Financial Ties to Her Campaign.”
But let’s start with what we just heard: Trump University. Lee Fang, what do you know about it?
LEE FANG: Hi, Amy, Juan. Thank you so much for having me.
You know, the big takeaway from the debate last night, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz came in swinging. And for a very—for the very first time in the Republican primary, we saw a lot of those hits land on Trump and Trump being rattled. I thought one of the most interesting exchanges was the one that you just played, with Marco Rubio bringing up a lot of Trump’s hypocrisy when it comes to immigrant labor, compared to his rhetoric on the campaign trail, and this topic of Trump University, which I think is very telling.
Trump founded this for-profit school called Trump University. He promised that for people who paid between $5,000 and, I believe, up to $50,000, they could enroll in this school, meet Donald Trump, learn the exclusive real estate investing tips and become rich from attending the school. Well, it turns out, from multiple investigations and lawsuits, that people who paid the fee to enroll, they went to these schools, they were not taught by experts—in fact, they were taught by amateurs. The tips that they learned at the school were mostly publicly available information that you could find on the Internet. And instead of meeting Mr. Trump, people who enrolled in the school were told that they could take a picture with a cardboard cutout.
So the attorney general of New York has investigated this school. There’s a big civil lawsuit that actually could force Trump to take time away from the campaign trail and testify on the stand about this issue. So it’s a big scandal, and I think it really speaks to who Trump is as a person. You know, previous reporting has shown that most of the people who enrolled in this school were low-income, you know, hoping for their next break. It shows Trump’s contempt for working-class people that he would really scam people in this way.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Lee, interestingly, in some of your writing, you’ve indicated that the Republican elite is furious at the rise of Trump, but not for the reasons that we would think—his anti-immigrant comments, his racism—but more for his, quote, “liberal” positions on a variety of issues that are key to Republican dogma.
LEE FANG: Yeah, that’s the interesting part of this debate to me. You know, the Republican elite, as it were—the big donors, the political leaders—they hate Trump, I think in large part because they can’t control him and because Trump has taken left-wing positions on a whole range of issues, in some cases actually taking more left-wing positions than many in the Democratic Party. Trump wants to renegotiate a lot of these big trade deals, after the Democratic Party has even endorsed the TPP or going back all the way to NAFTA. Trump has promised to take on pharmaceutical companies, promising to have Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. On a whole range of issues, Trump promises to bully big corporations and to be actually a neutral arbiter on issues like Israel-Palestine. So, that’s kind of the fascinating part of this election to me, that Trump—you know, part of his appeal is that he’s a self-funder, but he also is uniquely outside of the Republican donor class, and that special interests can’t control him and force him to be on these orthodox Republican issues.