A hot-mic video has emerged from a court case that Donald Trump was involved in during the 2016 presidential race in which the eventual president put what one observer called a “gangster persona” on clear display. The case involved the fraudulent “Trump University” that Trump ran, which was not actually an accredited school by any stretch of the imagination, but which Trump duped people into signing up for under the pretense of learning how to make big bucks in the real estate business. The newly revealed hot-mic video was captured during an hours-long deposition that Trump sat for on December 10, 2015. After a lunch break, Trump and his attorney Daniel Petrocelli returned to the deposition room and spoke freely on camera before the attorney conducting the deposition returned.
Mother Jones, which obtained the video, characterized the contents as follows:
‘Trump boasted about how his company threatened the Better Business Bureau to change the D rating it had assigned Trump University to an A. He complained about the federal judge overseeing the suit, Gonzalo Curiel, elliptically talking about how to challenge him and referring to “the Spanish thing.” Trump also griped that he had been sued personally in this case, and Petrocelli had to explain to Trump that he, not just Trump University itself, was in the legal crosshairs because Trump had been accused of making false statements to promote the venture.’
Check out the hot-mic video below:
Shortly after the 2016 election, Trump agreed to a cash settlement in three lawsuits that had been brought against him over Trump University. He paid $25 million, although he did not admit any kind of wrongdoing.
During the lead-up to those settlements, Trump, as Mother Jones mentioned, singled out Judge Gonzalo Curiel for criticism. In the months after the late 2015 deposition, Trump said that Curiel “happens to be, we believe, Mexican” — but he was born in Indiana. During the deposition itself, Trump’s reference to “the Spanish thing” seems to be him referencing that he had founded his campaign on racism against non-whites, and he may have wondered about potential effects on his case.
As for Trump’s discussion of the Better Business Bureau rating for Trump University, it’s unclear whether his claim that his company had threatened the bureau with a lawsuit is true. During a 2016 debate hosted by Fox News during the Republican presidential primary, Trump claimed that “right now,” the bureau’s rating for Trump University was A. That was incorrect. The bureau subsequently clarified that in 2015, Trump University had gotten the status of “No Rating” following its shutdown five years earlier. The A rating that it did temporarily have was because previous complaints against the company “automatically rolled off” after a certain period of time. The closed company’s rating subsequently moved to “No Rating” status.
Art Cohen, who was the lead plantiff in one of the Trump University lawsuits, provided the video to Mother Jones. He explained:
‘I wanted to get this out before the election so people better understand how Trump behaves behind the scenes. Staying quiet all this time has been frustrating for me, and I wish everybody had gotten the chance to see Trump’s behavior as I did before the 2016 election. With 20/20 vision, we now have the opportunity to better understand his true nature and the gangster persona he shows in this video.’
With years of experience of Trump’s belligerence in office, there’s even more to go on.