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US Politics : 'Trump University was a fraudulent scheme to separate people from their money'

In previously sealed testimony, former employees of Trump University describe the for-profit school started by Donald Trump as an underhanded business that employed under-qualified teachers and promoted questionable sales tactics. They say the school exploited people willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn how to win from "The Donald." 

Donald Trump appeared at a news conference in 2005 where he announced the start of Trump University. 
Ronald Schnackenberg, a former Trump University sales manager, testified that he was punished for not pushing a couple with poor finances to enroll in a $35,000 real estate class. Another Trump sales person convinced them to enroll in the class.

“I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money," Schnackenberg wrote in his 2012 testimony.

The documents released Tuesday are part of one of two lawsuits filed in San Diego federal court against Trump.
The presidential hopeful's lawyers challenged the characterizations, saying that the testimony of the former employees “was completely discredited” in depositions taken for the California lawsuit.

Trump University "laybooks" detailed in the documents describe how the seminars were to be run, often in minute detail, with selling techniques and tips for employees. The materials urge sales team members to aggressively get participants to buy more expensive programs.

The lawsuits contend Trump University falsely held itself out to be an accredited university where students would be taught by real estate experts and mentors handpicked by Trump and where they would receive a year of mentoring.

Instead, the lawsuits claim the instructors were not experts, that the program focused on “up-selling” techniques to rake in more money and that the yearlong mentorship program fell flat.

Trump’s lawyers argue that many students gave the program positive ratings and those who failed to find real estate success did so by their own fault.

The documents show in detail how the program was to be run, giving detailed sales scripts and tips on how to overcome reluctant customers. They also contain specific instructions in a number of areas.

The room temperature was never to be more than 68 degrees. Chairs had to be arranged in a specific way â” theater-style or classroom â” with enough space between them for attendees, but close enough to bring people “out of their comfort zone.”

Employees were known as “Trump U Team Members,” according to the documents. They couldn’t have visible tattoos or piercings, had to wear a suit the entire first day of the three-day seminars, and at least the first 30 minutes of the next days.

They also were told they had to use a specific computer desktop background on laptops, which depicted the Trump corporate logo.

There were also strict guidelines on dealing with media. Team members were prohibited from speaking with the media and instructed to contact other officials with the organization.

“Reporters are rarely on your side and not sympathetic,” reads one of more than a dozen bullet-point reminders in the packet. “No matter how much confidence you have in Trump University, you should not say anything,” reads another.

In addition to the media tips, the playbooks also contain instructions under the heading of “Attorney General.” It gives the name of a Trump University employee to contact “if an Attorney General arrives on the scene.”

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel

At a hearing Friday, Trump University lawyer Jill Martin told U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel that although it is defunct â” it has not accepted students since 2010 â” the business could reopen. That was another reason she argued the playbooks should remain sealed, but Curiel ultimately disagreed.

More documents that have been under seal, including declarations from what Trump University lawyers say are satisfied customers, are due to be unsealed later this week.

*From wire reports, including the Associated Press and The New York Times.
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