This week, hundreds of pages of instructional manuals for Trump University were ordered unsealed by the judge presiding over a class action lawsuit in California against the now-defunct institution. Trump felt the need to point out that he "believes" Judge Gonzalo Curiel is of Mexican descent.
Among the more revealing-or, if we're being honest, completely predictable-revelations in the documents, which Trump's attorneys tried to suppress on the grounds they contained trade secrets, were the exceptionally aggressive sales tactics meant to separate real estate course enrollees from their money by any means necessary.
It's not hard to see why Trump didn't want the well-plotted playbooks to go public.
They are essentially scripts complete with stage directions, from room temperature to persuading potential marks-er, students-that they should consider taking on huge credit card debt to finance their dreams. And while the sales tactics and alleged fraud contained therein are currently being well-scoured by the media at large, there is one section that is particularly interesting, especially considering Trump doubled-down on his adversarial relationship with the media this week.
Contained within each year's edition of the playbook are instructions for how employees of Trump University are supposed to deal with reporters. While some of it is clearly boilerplate for any such organization, the level of paranoia on display is jarring. The guidelines also speak to Trump's long-seated animosity toward the media in general, and strangely border on a sort of tautological aphorism style that can be downright existentially alarming to any reporter.
Under no circumstances is anyone besides the appropriate media liaison in any given year authorized to speak with a reporter. The documents clearly say: "No matter how much confidence you have in Trump University, you should not say anything."
If a reporter does manage to worm his or her way onto the premises somehow, the documents suggest taking their registration card and affixing it with the Mark of the Media.
Some further tips seem to bounce back and forth, which isn't surprising given how easily Trump, himself, changes his positions on everything. On one hand, reporters are untrustworthy scoundrels just waiting for you to slip up, but on the other hand, being nice doesn't hurt.
Some of the other tips include:
You don't have to deliver what the reporter wants.
Expect to be scrutinized.
Reporters are rarely on your side and they are not sympathetic.
Never assume the conversation is off the record.
A Trump University Associate or TU Independent Contractor is not at liberty to answer any questions from a reporter. The reporter should be referred to the proper media spokesperson.
Reporters use hidden cameras, placing them at odd angles in order to show a candid response, and the interviewee appears nervous and / or caught off guard.
Two others are somewhat softer, almost like they were pulled from a daily affirmation calendar:
You can only control what you are capable of controlling.
Remember, courtesy gets you a long way.
Those two fell by the wayside for Trump over the course of his campaign, in which he often seems to be actually running against the press, not his actual opponent.
Trump's dust-ups with the media this week notwithstanding, the manual may actually contain one blow that will be too much for any reporter to recover from. In fact, I've been staring out the window for the past hour trying to figure out what it means. Hell, what anything means:
Once reporters are present it no longer matters why they are there.