New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman won an easy moment in the sun this week — thanks in part to a trademark snit from Donald Trump, a defendant in one of Schneiderman’s best-known lawsuits.
Schneiderman, now serving his second term in the job, filed a court action against Trump and his enterprises three years ago. The $40 million suit preceded Trump’s presidential run. It followed a probe into the defunct Trump University, which the 61-year-old Democrat and others came to denounce as a scam.
Trump has hurled barbs and accusations along the way at Schneiderman, an ex-state senator to whose campaign the real estate heir had contributed in the past — just as he’d done with Hillary Clinton, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and other elected figures.
These days, Trump calls Schneiderman “dopey” and “a lightweight.”
The presidential candidate propelled more coverage of the litigation by denouncing the judge in one Trump U. case as “a hater of Trump” who “railroaded” him.
He did this before a rally audience that booed on cue.
Then, as if answering a question nobody asked, Trump cited the ethnicity of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. “The judge . . . happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine,” he said.
Point of fact: Indiana-born Curiel, whose parents emigrated from Mexico, once successfully prosecuted a Tijuana drug cartel, which put out a death threat on him during his days in the U.S. attorney’s office in Southern California.
The Donald’s words have become the wind at Schneiderman’s back from a public-relations standpoint. This is certainly so among legions of Trump-o-phobes.
Politically for the attorney general, it almost doesn’t matter who will win or lose in court.
Nor does it matter that Schneiderman’s case is just one of three stemming from former Trump U. students’ claims they were ripped off. The California case under Curiel’s control is another.
Once Curiel released explosive documents in the case Monday, it became clear why Trump would wish to make a pre-emptive attack.
For example: A sales manager for Trump University, Ronald Schnackenberg, swore he was reprimanded for not pushing a struggling couple hard enough into a $35,000 real estate class. He said the business “preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”
Helping develop new and negative information about a national GOP nominee’s business would provide a limelight enviable for any elected Democrat. So here was Schneiderman back on CNN providing sound bites summarizing the long-running and widely publicized New York case.
“This is thousands of people who were taken for millions of dollars,” he said. “It’s been admitted, the president of Trump University already admitted that Trump never had anything to do with writing the curriculum.
“ . . . It was a scam.”
Trump insists all the lawsuits are frivolous and that most who paid for the service were satisfied customers.
Schneiderman said Wednesday in a statement through a spokesman, “We filed our case against Trump University in 2013, long before anyone knew Mr. Trump would run for president. This was never about politics . . . ”
Schneiderman first drew the national limelight in 2011, his first year in office, by taking a harder line than many peers from other states on a settlement with big banks over improper mortgage foreclosures.
If this doesn’t expand his name recognition, what would?