Speaking publicly before the House Oversight Committee this past Wednesday, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen claimed that the now President Donald Trump went so far as to direct him to threaten schools he’d attended with legal action if they released his grades. One of those schools has now confirmed Cohen’s account, painting a further desperately egomaniacal portrait of a man who millions of Americans selected to be their president.
New York’s Fordham University’s spokesperson Bob Howe explained this week that yes, all the way back in 2015, the school received repeated communications from Trump’s legal team warning them not to release the then-presidential candidate’s records. Trump attended the school for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received an economics degree in a program he’s claimed to have finished at the top of his class in, despite no evidence to that effect.
Howe explained that first, the school received a call from someone on the now president’s legal team seeking confirmation that they would not release Trump’s records. Soon after, even though the university sought to reassure the then-candidate’s team that his records would remain confidential, Howe says that a “Trump attorney” sent a letter “summarizing the call and reminding us that they would take action against the university if we did, in fact, release Mr. Trump’s records.”
Cohen explained to Congress — with the support of a copy of the letter he says he sent — that he held the possibility before the school of both civil and criminal penalties, including substantial fines and even jail time if they released Trump’s records.
To be clear — it’s illegal under federal law for the school to choose to release Trump’s records, as it is for them to release any other student’s records without their consent. There’s no apparent indication that Fordham University had even considered taking that lawbreaking step — but the Trump team made sure to fingerwag at the school anyway. Cohen says that Trump directed him to similarly threaten his high school, the University of Pennsylvania, and even the College Board, which administers the SAT test.
Neither the College Board nor the University of Pennsylvania had any immediate comment on Cohen’s story. The New York Military Academy — a boarding school where Trump attended high school — said they had no immediate record of communication with the now president’s legal team, but the superintendent’s office noted there has been “much turnover” at the school recently.
The incident is not particularly unique among Trump’s behavior. Besides claiming to be a “stable genius” on multiple occasions but losing it over the possibility of his academic records getting out, he’s repeatedly touted his business prowess while breaking with decades of precedent and refusing to release his tax returns.
During his Wednesday testimony, Cohen laid out a clear path for House Democrats to take towards the president’s tax returns, saying that if they wanted evidence of tax and insurance fraud Trump’s alleged to have engaged in, that’s where to look. The House Democratic majority’s subpoena power could come in handy.
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