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Donald Trump: I could have won the Trump University fraud lawsuit if I didn’t have to be president

Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

President-elect Donald Trump boasted for years — including on the campaign trail — about how he “never” settled lawsuits. That wasn’t always true. But the announcement Friday that he’d settled for $25 million the three lawsuits against Trump University, his ersatz university accused of defrauding students, was still a little out of character for a man who brags about never backing down.

And while Trump didn’t admit liability in the settlement, the facts about Trump’s real estate seminars that emerged during the proceedings were damning. Trump University wasn’t a “university” at all, but a series of real estate seminars. The main goal for instructors, the company’s playbooks showed, was to get as much money as possible out of students, talking them into upgrading to an annual “mentorship” that cost tens of thousands of dollars and didn’t deliver.

So on Twitter on Saturday morning, Trump tried to present another narrative, tweeting frantically about how he definitely, definitely would have won if it weren’t for the inconvenience of having to be president instead:

The tweets show how poorly Trump deals with anything that isn’t a crushing victory.

Settling the lawsuits was the logical move for Trump. Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who oversaw the two class action lawsuits in California, had urged him and the plaintiffs to reach a settlement. One lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial November 28.

Taking the case to trial had few advantages and few drawbacks for Trump. Even if he won, he also would have devoted time and attention to on the cases while he’s supposed to be overseeing his transition to the presidency, which has been chaotic so far. He might have had to testify in court. And the whole process would have meant that the words “President-elect Trump” and “fraud trial” would have been paired in headlines for months before his presidency even started.

But Trump doesn’t like logical compromises. As his tweets about the settlement illustrate, he demands absolute victory and the humiliation of his opponent — a characteristic that could translate very poorly to the world of politics and international diplomacy.

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