Last week, Michael Cohen revealed that he threatened academic institutions not to release Donald Trump’s school records. Turns out, he might have undersold the effort.
The Post’s Marc Fisher just broke the news that the New York Military Academy, which Trump attended as a boy, moved its Trump files to a more secure location amid pressure from moneyed Trump allies. The school didn’t accede to these allies’ requests that the documents be turned over. But citing financial ailments and worried about legal action, it did help ensure they’d never see the light of day.
The timing of this new revelation is the most notable. Cohen last week submitted a letter he wrote threatening Fordham University with legal action if Trump’s records were released. That was in 2015, when Trump was about to run for president.
But this newest effort is actually from 2011, when Trump was considering challenging Barack Obama in his 2012 reelection race. That actually places it much closer to when Trump was routinely attacking Obama for not releasing his own academic records. (Trump all but abandoned the attack by 2015 and 2016 because of its declining utility against a lame-duck president.)
And according to Fisher, it came within days of when Trump called Obama a “terrible student” and suggested he shouldn’t have been able to get into the schools he did.
“I heard he was a terrible student — terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump told the Associated Press in late April 2011. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”
The day after the AP story published, the Telegraph posted video of a Trump interview in which he said the same thing. While Trump first brought Obama’s academic records up in the context of potential affirmative action, he would later suggest, also without evidence, that they might include something revelatory about Obama’s birth place.
The hypocrisy is obviously thick here. But what’s perhaps more notable is just how exhaustive the effort to bury Trump’s academic records seems to have been. It’s apparently something that spanned two different presidential campaign cycles and was undertaken almost immediately as Trump began talking about Obama’s grades.
In his testimony, Cohen seemed to restrict the effort to bury Trump’s grades to the 2016 campaign. He suggested his 2015 efforts were hypocritical in light of Trump’s 2011 comments, but he didn’t allude to any 2011 efforts.
“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 said. “As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared, ‘Let him show his records,’ after calling Obama a terrible student.”
It’s not clear who exactly was involved in the efforts to lean on the New York Military Academy. The school’s then-superintendent, Jeffrey Coverdale, declined to say who applied pressure. But the school’s then-headmaster, Evan Jones, said the people were “prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Trump’s friends.” And it’s difficult to believe such a concerted effort would be undertaken by anyone without some nudging from Trump. This was clearly something he was interested in concealing, as Cohen’s 2015 letter to Fordham indicates.
It’s hardly the first example of Trump attacking others for things that could just as easily get turned around on him. But it does appear a particularly rich one. Trump could perhaps argue that he had no duty to release his grades in 2016 since Obama never did. But the fact that there was an effort to hide Trump’s own grades even as he was attacking Obama on this topic suggests Trump never intended to abide by his own standard.