At what point does Good Morning America begin to sound like “Go F--- Yourself”?
That, alas, is the unavoidable question after I received a complaining email Thursday from a spokesman for New York’s attorney general, who is suing Donald Trump and various associates over high-priced real-estate seminars, sold under the name “Trump University,” that allegedly didn’t live up to their billing.
The spokesman’s email took issue with Team Trump’s claim that they were alerted to the timing of the lawsuit by a producer at ABC’s Good Morning America.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s spokesman vehemently rejected the Trump Organization’s tacky scenario—i.e., learning of the imminent lawsuit filing from a TV hack’s email, suggesting that Schneiderman is something of a publicity hound. But Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, was equally vehement in rejecting the AG's flack’s rejection, and even threw religion into the battle.
But let’s start at the beginning.
"During a meeting on Thursday [Aug. 22] between Mr. Trump's lawyer Avi Schick, the attorney general's chief of staff and the executive deputy attorney general for economic justice,” the AG’s press officer wrote in his email, “it became clear that settlement negotiations had fully and finally stalled. Mr. Schick was informed that the attorney general would be suing Mr. Trump and that he should expect media inquiries the next day.”
The flack continued: “Mr. Schick asked that we hold off on formally filing the suit until Saturday, which we agreed to do. Despite Mr. Trump's persistent effort to avoid discussing the facts of the case, Attorney General Schneiderman is focused on pursuing justice for the hundreds of New Yorkers victimized by Mr. Trump and his scam university."
Cohen’s retort: “I once again respectfully disagree with this latest dishonest statement coming from the AG's office. An email by the segment producer of GMA proves that the AG's office leaked the story. Moreover, Mr. Schick would never ask for the suit to be filed on Saturday as he is an Orthodox Jew and observes the Sabbath. Neither the AG nor this lawsuit make any sense.”
Earnest attempts to clarify the situation raised another question—“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”—but my discussions with the various parties lead me to believe that, yes, the AG’s folks told Schick his client was definitely going to be sued, and yes, they said that Trump should expect press calls the next morning. But no, Schick didn’t ask for the suit to be filed on Saturday, though it was clear that the AG’s office could file whenever they wanted.
Team Trump—which exercised first-strike capability in the media war by orchestrating Saturday stories about suit in the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal—expected the filing to come on Monday. The AG’s lawyers, reading the Post and the Journal and getting more than a little annoyed, decided to pull the trigger then and there, and ultimately filed in New York Supreme Court around 3 p.m. on Saturday. Schick, perhaps wisely, declined to comment.