As polls show tightening in California in her race for the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has sharpened her attacks on Donald Trump.
At an appearance at Rutgers University on Wednesday, where she was joined by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, Clinton said that Trump “is trying to scam America the way he scammed all those people at Trump U.”
“His own employees testified … his own employees testified that Trump U — you can’t make this up — that Trump U was a fraudulent scheme where Donald Trump enriched himself at the expense of hard-working people,” Clinton said.
Clinton is taking on a line of attack akin to that of Marco Rubio during the Republican primary, in which he brought up the Trump University litigation and called Trump a “con artist.” But Trump went on to win anyway, and Rubio recently indicated that he would back him.
If anything, Clinton’s attack could help assuage concerns over how she would take on Trump in a general election, and that she would be the stronger candidate to do so. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows that Clinton led Sanders by just two points, 49% to 47%, in the California primary. Although it is likely that she will capture enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination by Tuesday, a loss in California would be an inauspicious end to primary season. Sanders also may be emboldened to take his fight to the convention in July, which he has already committed to do.
On Tuesday, a trove of documents was made public in a federal court in California, including Trump University playbooks, as part of a class action suit against the venture, in which a former student characterizes Trump U as a scam. The playbooks gave instructions to course organizers on how to set up introductory sessions and seminars, how to sell real-estate course retreats for as high as $34,995, and how to persuade prospective students to put tuition on their credit cards even if they are reluctant to go into debt. One of the details in the documents showed that instructors were to play the O’Jay’s “For the Love of Money,” used in the show Trump hosted, “The Apprentice.”
The organizers also wanted to draw on the success of the NBC series by running ads that said, “I want you to be my apprentice.” In an unsealed 2012 deposition, Michael Sexton, a former president of Trump University, said that the thinking was, “there’s millions of dollars in advertisement for ‘The Apprentice’ TV show. If we’re in ‘The Apprentice’ TV show season, it will be top of mind for people.” He also said that got the idea to approach Trump about the idea for Trump University during the first season of the show, when he thought that from a branding standpoint, it would be a “very, very effective way to connect with people.”
Trump has insisted that he will win the case and that students were highly satisfied. His campaign released a video in which former students praise the classes and real estate education they got from it.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton is a fraud who has put the public and country at risk by her illegal and very stupid use of e-mails,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. He is being represented in the California case by Dan Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers. Petrocelli has a history of donating to Democrats, and gave $2,700 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in January, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Clinton’s campaign also tweeted out links to a flurry of stories about the documents, in an effort to convey a negative out of one of Trump’s perceived strengths, his business acumen. Clinton told the crowd in New Jersey that the documents were just “more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud.”
The Democratic National Committee also hammered Trump over Trump U. On a press call, Kevin de Leon, president pro tem of the California state senate, called him a “con artist who is only out for himself.”
The judge in the case, Gonzalo P. Curiel, wrote that a factor in their release was that Trump has become “the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race, and has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue.”
On Friday, when Trump was appearing at a rally in San Diego, called Curiel a “hater of Donald Trump” and someone “who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine.”
On Twitter, Trump also complained that the judge is “totally biased against me.”
Clinton is returning to California on Thursday, to give a national security speech in San Diego, and is scheduled to remain in the state until at least Monday. That evening, her campaign is staging a fundraising concert at the Greek Theater featuring Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Andra Day, John Legend and Stevie Wonder.