It's been a very bad week for the Trump Empire.
Just two weeks ago, Donald Trump was occupying his exact right place in the universe, preparing to line his pockets with another venture that contributes nothing meaningful or even tangible to the world. This time, it was the Miss USA contest—an annual event in which the human equivalents of Pomeranians fumble over political questions to the delight of schadenfreude-thirsty Americans.
Then he launched his presidential campaign. Under normal circumstances, this would have just been laughed at and quickly swept under the rug. But that didn't happen, because Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "murderers" during his announcement speech.
The fallout was swift. Univision decided last week not to air the Spanish-language telecast of Trump's Miss USA pageant. On Monday, NBCUniversal, which co-owns the pageant, decided to cut him out of The Apprentice. Macy's followed suit, announcing it would pull all Trump merchandise from its stores. And today, the mattress company Serta said it wouldn't be renewing its contract for the Trump Home collection next year.
And now, as Trump's Empire hemorrhages money, we're getting closer than ever to learning the details of his business practices. In the past, Trump's net worth has been notoriously hard to pin down, and experts have said it's likely a much lower number than he suggests. But earlier this week, afederal judge ruled that Trump will have to clarify some of his murky finances, as part of an ongoing lawsuit over a "university" Trump named after himself.
Trump got into the distance learning game in 2005 as a way to further cash in on his then-recent reality TV success. According to a federal complaint, Trump University was marketed as "the next best thing to being Trump's Apprentice" and improbably compared it to the University's of Pennsylvania's famous Wharton Business School.
In October of 2013, former student Art Cohen claimed in court that he paid almost $36,000 for a three-day event in Palo Alto with hopes of learning real estate secrets from instructors that Trump handpicked. But actually, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Trump University was a scam school being run without a license. A court agreed, and Cohen's complaint evolved into a class action lawsuit.
In the latest development of the case, US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel announced Tuesday that Trump must disclose how much money he made from tricking wannabe business moguls with deep pockets and a shallow understanding of what differentiates an Ivy League business school and a weekend conference held at hotel.
"In this case, plaintiffs seek more than just a figure of Trump's net worth," Curiel wrote. "Moreover, the court finds it is not fair to say that Trump's net worth is equally available to plaintiff from publicly available sources. Publicly available figures of Trump's wealth have been the subject of wild speculation and range anywhere from $4 to $9 billion. Simply stated, plaintiffs are entitled to answers made under penalty of perjury."
The ruling could soon provide a rare glimpse into the finances of a man who constantly brags about being rich despite having declared bankruptcy four times. Losing the Spanish-language broadcast of Miss Universe and Miss USA will cost him $13.5 million dollars, and it's said that he makes $65 million a year through his work on The Apprentice. It's unclear how much his mattress contract was worth.
Although every presidential candidate that registers with the Federal Elections Commission has to file personal financial disclosure reports within 30 days, those forms are difficult-as-fuck to read, and also fairly vague. With this suit, we'll at least be able to get a glimpse into how one specific arm of his empire was run (into the ground.)
Oddly, Trump's PR nightmare only seems to be hurting him financially. Politically, he's doing great: Against all common sense, he's now second only to Jeb Bush in national 2016 polls; if the numbers hold, he'll surely have a spot on stage for the Republican primary debates, which means we'll be treated to even more batshit crazy remarks.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the class action case have until August 10 to ask Trump about the finances of his so-called university, according to the ruling, which is embedded below.
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