Among the many revelations about Trump’s behavior that emerged in Michael Cohen’s House testimony last week was this juicy tidbit: Trump allegedly asked his fixer to seal or otherwise bury his high school and college transcripts. “I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores,” Cohen said to the House Oversight Committee.
A new Washington Post report lays out how Trump managed to conceal his academic record eight years ago, just when he was beginning to blur the lines between entertainment and politics. In April 2011, in the midst of his birtherism rants, Trump questioned Barack Obama’s academic record, wondering “how a bad student [could] go to Columbia and then to Harvard.” Days later, according to the Post, the headmaster at New York Military Academy received an order from the school’s superintendent to find Trump’s school records and hide them from any inquiring journalists or opposition research teams. Evan Jones, who, in 2011, was headmaster at the academy where trouble-child Donald was sent at 13 years old, recalled that the school’s superintendent “came to me in a panic because he had been accosted by prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump’s friends.” The superintendent, Jeffrey Coverdale, also confirmed the account, saying that the board of trustees initially wanted him to hand over Trump’s documents; Coverdale refused, and moved them “elsewhere on campus where they could not be released.”
As is normal with requests from Trump, the billionaire reportedly went above-and-beyond routine expectations of alumni behavior. “I don’t know if we should be doing this,” headmaster Jones said to superintendent Coverdale. But Jones went along with the request, searching through filing cabinets in a basement until he found Trump’s records, which he then hid somewhere else. Coverdale did not offer where the records were placed, nor did he identify the alumni who requested he bury the files. “I don’t want to get into anything with these guys,” he told the Post. You have to understand, these were millionaires and multimillionaires on the board, and the school was going through some troubles. But to hear, ‘You will deliver them to us?’ That doesn’t happen. This was highly unusual.”
Last week, Fordham confirmed that someone from the Trump team had called the university in the run-up to the campaign, and reiterated the threat of legal action that Cohen mentioned in his testimony. “We told the caller that Fordham is bound by federal law, and that we could not/would not reveal/share any records with anyone except Mr. Trump himself, or any recipient he designated, in writing,” a university spokesman said in an email to the Post, referring to a privacy law that restricts schools from releasing grades or test scores without permission.
Trump has bragged about his performance in school, claiming he was “first in my class” in his business program at the University of Pennsylvania, although the Daily Pennsylvanian reports that his name did not appear on the dean’s list, or on any academic honors lists from his graduating class in 1968.
Any realistic fan, or critic, of the president’s speeches knows that his talents lie not in reading, but in improvisation, as shown by his recent, marathon speech at CPAC, considered one of his more unhinged — or brilliant, depending on interpretation — performances at the mic. But many who have worked with Trump in recent years also contest the president’s boasts of intelligence: He was reportedly called an “idiot” by Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, Sam Nunberg, Steve Mnuchin, and Reince Priebus, and, notoriously, a “fucking moron” by former secretary of State Rex Tillerson.