Trump University Attempted to Scam a Canadian Reporter in 2006

Note: This blog rarely ever traffics in long excerpts of other people's writing. But when you come across something that demonstrates, quite clearly, everything we've been hearing about the con job that was Trump University, well, it's hard to resist, especially when no one else (so far) has reported on it.

This is from the article "Trump U. and Me: Email from the Donald" by Kelly Roesler. It was published in the Ottawa Citizen on September 5, 2006. In the first part of the article, Roesler writes about her experience with a DVD and five-book series that was her introduction to the things she could learn at Trump University. Then it got intense and weird.

Roesler was subjected to everything that you've read: the hard sell, the "OPM" idea of using your credit cards to finance the expensive bullshit Trump U was flinging, the unrealistic promises of wealth. Roesler isn't part of the class action lawsuit because she saw through the screen of lies. Check it out and spread this around. It's contemporaneous evidence of what an unethical buffoon the Republican nominee is. Get Roesler on your show now, Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes.

Here we go with the second half of the article (it's all Roesler now to the end):

I admit, I had been surprised to see the "personal" invitation from Donald Trump in my e-mail inbox, and to read the sales pitch for the Real Estate Series, which purported to make me a virtual real estate expert through a few books and a coaching DVD.

But I was almost blown away by the phone call I received from Trump University just a few days later.

It seems my package entitled me to a "wealth-building consultation." My phone rang and it was Chris Perricone, a screener from Trump University, and he wanted to know if I was ready for what he had to offer.

I had been selected as a candidate for a one-on-one mentorship program, under the guidance of one of Mr. Trump's hand-picked mentors. However, I would have to undergo a two-step interview process to see if I had what it took to work with Mr. Trump's disciples.

Intrigued, I wanted to hear more.

He wanted to know how much money I expected to make within 12 months to become a "Trump University success story." And the sky, apparently, was the limit. After some probing questions about the state of my finances, things began to get a little strange.

"Within 30 to 90 days, we'd like for you to at least go out and find a couple of foreclosures and flip a couple properties," said Chris. "Pardon?" I reply, my chest fluttering.

Eventually, Chris concluded I should expect to bring in $100,000 within my first year with Donald Trump's mentoring program -- "$100,000 your first year. That is a very reasonable goal." I stifle the urge to laugh.

Then comes the topic of tuition.

"So Kelly, you've heard of the OPM strategy?" Chris asked. "I'm sorry?" I replied. "Other peoples' money," he said. "It does take money to make money," he added.

From there, the conversation spiraled into a dizzying blur of numbers. A $2,200 down payment (all figures in U.S. dollars) right then would get me started, he said, and Trump U would finance the remaining $2,000.

Then, a minimum of $10,000 to begin investing under the tutelage of my mentor, plus a monthly $40 fee for use of the "business resource centre." This on top of the licensing fees I would incur to get started, independent from Trump U. My head was spinning.

Despite my growing sense of alarm, I agreed to a second interview with a Trump U consultant, Dan Turner.

The next day, I spoke with Mr. Turner, a charming man with a distinct southern drawl. He asked me classic interview questions about my decision skills, and my strengths and weaknesses. I talked at length about my training as a journalist, and my interest in business.

I then asked Dan a few questions about the mentorship program, and he seemed irritated. "You've seen The Apprentice, right? he asked. "Of course," I replied.

"You know how grueling it is for him to decide who's going to be his next apprentice. These coaches and mentors have been hand-selected by Donald Trump."

I asked him what kind of accreditation I might expect from the mentorship program, and he bristled: "I wouldn't know. Your coach and mentor could explain that to you. There's something there, I just don't know what it is. I just decide who we work with and who we don't -- that's not my responsibility." Then, a minute of awkward silence. "OK?" He asked tersely. I said "OK," placatingly, but I've offended him.

"If you think those answers weren't good enough for you, then I don't want to waste your time or mine. I'd rather part company as friends." I recognized this immediately: The pull-back, a time-honored sales technique.

Then, the kicker: "Do you trust Donald Trump?" he asked indignantly. "Because if you don't, maybe we should end this conversation right now." I reassured him that as a potential student, I was just trying to learn what I can.

"Donald Trump has billions riding on this," he said. "He's got his whole name riding on this. He has a vested interest in you becoming successful, but also in his business and in his organization."

But why me? I wanted to know. How did I register on Donald Trump's radar? "Well, you know, Mr. Trump, he's got to have the best of the best.

"We have thousands upon thousands of people who have ordered those materials, and we don't just call every single one. We've just got to have the best, and that's why I've talked to you so much -- to make sure you have the qualities and traits that I've been told to ensure I have in a student."

And do I meet this criteria, I wondered. "Absolutely, without a doubt in my mind. You've got that business-owner mentality, you've got the motivation, the desire, the determination."

I declined Dan's offer politely, bemused by the conversation. Undaunted, Dan told me if I ever changed my mind, to just give him a call. "I'll leave this offer open-ended," he said. "I normally wouldn't do this, but we wouldn't want to miss out on someone like you."

And, as months passed, Donald Trump continued to pursue me, sending messages through my inbox, weekly and sometimes daily. He wrote me eloquent letters, such as: "Dear Kelly, Do you want 2006 to be the best year of your career? Do you want a big edge in business and in life? Don't you deserve it?

"I want to take you with me to the top. Unless you are afraid of heights, you're going to love the view from up here."

Finally, I decided to call him and ask what all this was about. So I phoned his New York office, leaving messages with several receptionists and his head assistant, Rona Graff. But no response from Donald. I soon received a call on my BlackBerry from Michael Sexton, president of Trump University. "Donald Trump is not available." Really? The Donald who has been hounding me for months to join his team?

"At the end of the day, we're trying to get somebody's attention," he said. "You're inundated all day long with e-mails, with ads on TV, print, in the newspaper. We want to connect with people to get our message through. Donald Trump is our founder and chairman. He is a respected businessman, I think people look to him as a motivator."

But he couldn't explain Mr. Trump's seemingly random pursuit.

"Donald Trump has done a phenomenal job building his brand and we would never do anything to harm it. Am I concerned that you perceive this as unsolicited? Yes, I am and I'll get you an answer as to where your e-mail address came from."

But I never did get that answer from Michael Sexton, nor did I hear from Donald. As for my stint with Trump University, probably the most important thing I've learned is that $15,000 means a great deal more in my pocket than in Donald's.

That's something, at least.