Michael Cohen testimony: Trump, a Wharton alum, told me to threaten colleges to not release grades
"I’m giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump’s direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission."
When President Donald Trump went to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he says, he was a “really good student.”
He’s proud of his record — at least, he said as much to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd in 2015.
"Because everybody knows what a great school it is," he said. "Everybody knows that to get into Wharton is probably the hardest school to get into."
But the world may never know just how good of a student Trump claims to be. In an explosive opening statement to the House Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday, Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, called him a “racist,” “con man,” and “cheat” who directed him to threaten the president’s “high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”
Cohen said documents he shared with the committee included “copies of letters” written at Trump’s direction that detailed the apparent threats, though no school was directly named in the statement.
“As I mentioned, I’m giving the committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump’s direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission,” he said.
Among the examples supporting his claims that Cohen submitted to Congress was a letter sent to Fordham University dated May 5, 2015: “...please be advised that my client does not consent to any release or disclosure of any educational records to any third parties; and if in the event any of his records are released or otherwise disclosed without his prior written consent, we will hold your institution liable to the fullest extent of the law including damages and criminality,” he wrote.
The letter added that Trump “truly enjoyed his two years at Fordham and has great respect for the university.”
Trump transferred to Penn after spending two years at Fordham University in New York City. Trump’s academic record was a large topic of discussion shortly after he won the 2016 presidential election and the Penn’s student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, published a story that questioned his status as a top student.
A 1973 New York Times profile said Trump graduated first in his class from Wharton in 1968. But Trump’s name was not included among dean’s list students for the 1967-68 school year, though it is found on a Penn commencement program from 1968, which lists Trump as graduating from Wharton with a bachelor of science in economics. His name isn’t included among those who received honors or other awards.
“The irony wasn’t lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades,” Cohen told the committee. "As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared, ‘Let him show his records,’ after calling President Obama ‘a terrible student.’”
Asked Wednesday whether Cohen communicated with Penn, university spokesperson Ron Ozio said, “Sorry, but we do not comment on student records.”
Throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency, Penn and its business school have remained largely silent on the famous alum.
A spokesperson for Fordham told Inside Higher Ed that the university had been warned by the Trump campaign against releasing records, but that it wasn’t the school’s policy to share that information.
“Our stance remains the same: We obey federal law and don’t release student records to anyone but the student/graduate or anyone that the student designates, in writing," the spokesperson said.