Donald Trump hits out at New York prosecutor over 'bogus university' lawsuit

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - American real-estate tycoon Donald Trump on Monday hit out at New York's top prosecutor who filed a lawsuit against him for running a sham university, calling him a "political hack".

On Twitter and in a series of blazing television interviews, Mr Trump called New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "a total sleazebag", "very stupid and ineffective" and "a total failure in office."

Mr Schneiderman announced on Sunday that he was suing the star of 'The Apprentice' television show for swindling people into paying hefty fees at his Trump University to get rich by learning his investing techniques.

"More than 5,000 people across the country who paid Donald Trump US$40 million (S$51.18 million) to teach them his hard sell tactics got a hard lesson in bait-and-switch," Mr Schneiderman said in a statement.

"Mr Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn't afford for lessons they never got."

The billionaire magnate went on the offensive on Monday, accusing Mr Schneiderman of soliciting him for campaign funds and seeking publicity.

"People loved the school. The school was terrific. And we got sued for lots of different reasons, primarily, once again, publicity," Mr Trump told CNN, adding that his university had a 98 per cent approval rating.

On Fox and Friends, he called Mr Schneiderman a "political hack", and on the Today show, a "total lightweight."

"During the investigation, he was asking people in my firm, including one of my lawyers, for campaign contributions," Mr Trump told the Today show.

"Who ever heard of this? He's asking for campaign contributions while he's looking into Trump. I mean what kind of an attorney general is this?"

Mr Schneiderman accused Mr Trump of running false advertisements that consumers would "learn from my hand-picked expert" and "just copy exactly what I've done and get rich."

He said in the statement that Mr Trump had not chosen any of the instructors and had very little or no role in developing content for the course.

Trump University, which opened in 2005, was also unlicenced to operate in the state of New York, according to Mr Schneiderman.

Students signed up for a US$1,495 three-day seminar during which they were promised they would learn everything they needed to know to become successful real estate investors.

Mr Scheidernman said this was a "misrepresentation" and the seminars were used to pitch consumers an expensive Trump Elite mentorship programs costing US$10,000 to US$35,000.

"Trump University promised that the mentorships provided one-on-one training during which students would have personal assistance until they executed their first real estate deal and recouped the cost of the program."

Many consumers who made the costly investments did not receive the individual mentor attention promised, said the statement.

Mr Trump has set up a website, 98percentapproval.com, to defend the claims by Mr Schneiderman, whom he accuses of "gross incompetence" and wasting taxpayer's money in a "no holds barred, scorched earth investigation" against him.