One of the revelations that President Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen offered during his testimony to the House Oversight Committee last week was that the president had told him to contact his prior schools to keep his academic records under wraps. Cohen alleged that Trump ordered him “to threaten his high school, his colleges and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”
On Tuesday, in a Washington Post report, former officials at New York Military Academy backed up this account, saying that the coverup occurred in 2011:
The superintendent of the private school “came to me in a panic because he had been accosted by prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump’s friends” and who wanted to keep his records secret, recalled Evan Jones, the headmaster at the time. “He said, ‘You need to go grab that record and deliver it to me because I need to deliver it to them.'”
The superintendent, Jeffrey Coverdale, confirmed Monday that members of the school’s board of trustees initially wanted him to hand over Trump’s records to them, but Coverdale said he refused.
“I was given directives, part of which I could follow but part of which I could not, and that was handing them over to the trustees,” he said. “I moved them elsewhere on campus where they could not be released. It’s the only time I ever moved an alumnus’s records.”
Trump, who was sent to the New York Military Academy after his father decided he needed a stricter environment, has bragged that he “became one of the top guys at the whole school,” and received “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.” (He got out of serving in Vietnam with medical deferments from a podiatrist who rented office space from his father, which is broadly considered bogus.)
Perhaps the most damning aspect of the whole saga is that Trump’s alleged scheme to intimidate his alma maters into hiding his records is that it came just after he made the rounds demanding that President Barack Obama turn over his school transcripts, while he was considering a run for president in 2012.
“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” he said in 2011. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Obama graduated magna cum laude and presided over the Harvard Law Review, but these academic achievements didn’t dissuade Trump from his fanatical belief that Obama was only admitted because he was black.
A further irony is that Trump may not even have needed to send Cohen to bully his old headmaster. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), high schooland college records are not public information in the first place — they cannot be released without the student’s permission except in very limited circumstances, although it is unclear whether that law would apply to a private boarding school.