College Cheating Scandal and Paul Manafort’s Sentencing: A Closer Look

November 14, 2019 0 By Kody Olson

-A massive college
cheating scandal and the sentencing of the
president’s ex-campaign chairman have exposed corruption at
the highest levels of society. For more on this, it’s time for
“A Closer Look.” [ Cheers and applause ] The past 24 hours have really
pulled back the curtain on how wealth and power
operate in America. Yesterday, a $25 million
college-admissions cheating scandal
ensnared Hollywood actors and some of the wealthiest
people in the country. And today, the president’s
campaign chairman was indicted in one case for fraud,
and sentenced in another case after he was already sentenced
last week in a third case, in which he was accused
of stealing money and spending it on a jacket
made from an ostrich. [ Laughter ] In other words,
rich people are insane. Once you have that much money,
it poisons your brain. You either end up
bribing a soccer coach to get your kid
into Yale, or, if that doesn’t work, you leave all your money
to your cat — which is a ridiculous
thing to do, since every cat
already acts like they have
“[bleep] you” money. [ Laughter ] “Good news!” [ Cheers and applause ] “Good news, cat,
you’re a millionaire.” “You mean
I wasn’t already?” [ Laughter ] “I’m pretty sure
I already was.” But Paul Manafort
really had the worst day, because right after
he was sentenced in one case, he was indicted by a different
office in another case involving 16 counts tied to
residential-mortgage fraud. He was sentenced and indicted
on the same day in a move that will one day
be coined “The Manafort.” But the college-admissions
cheating scandal is one of the most
fascinating glimpses into how the wealthy and
the privileged rig the game. More than 40 people have been
arrested in the scheme, including everyone
from C.E.O.s, to the heads of major
international law firms, to private-equity titans,
to Hollywood actors. -Federal prosecutors today
revealed what they say is the largest case of
college-admissions fraud in U.S. history, charging
coaches and affluent parents — including Hollywood elite —
in a massive bribery scheme to fast-track kids
into some of the country’s top universities,
including Yale and Stanford. -The fraud,
allegedly two-fold — parents paying
to inflate their children’s
standardized test scores, or faking athletic records
to get students recruited for sports they did
not even play. -Two Hollywood actresses are among the dozens
of people charged — the TV stars Felicity Huffman
from “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin
from “Full House.” -Lori Loughlin? Why didn’t you just bribe
a college the normal way, by donating money
for a new building? You already had
a name. [ Laughter ] The details of this scandal
are truly mind-blowing. For example, parents bribed
coaches at prestigious schools to get their kids admitted
as athletes in sports
they didn’t play. In one case, the teenage girl
who did not play soccer magically became a star
soccer recruit at Yale in exchange
for $400,000. Now, that $400,000
went to the Yale coach, who was in on the scam,
and then had to, I guess, explain what they saw
in the new recruit. “All right, everybody.
Gather around. This is our new
star player. You’re not gonna see much of her
out on the field, but wait until you try
her orange slices.” [ Laughter ] Some parents,
including Loughlin, even went to
the extraordinary lengths of staging or doctoring photos
to make it look like their kids were playing sports
they did not play. -Investigators say
Lori Loughlin and her husband agreed to pay bribes
totaling half a million dollars in exchange for having
their two daughters designated as recruits
to the USC crew team, despite the fact that they
did not participate in crew. Court documents say
they even had their girls stage photos
as athletes. -In one instance,
a parent sending this photo showing their daughter playing
water polo in high school, but in fact,
the photo was another student. -I mean, of all the sports
to lie about, I have to say,
water polo is the smartest one, because nobody knows
how it works. [ Laughter ] I don’t even know what a
water-polo body would look like. I mean, is it long arms
and a tail? [ Laughter ] Of course,
the plan would have worked, until the kid
showed up at the pool in riding gear
and an actual horse. [ Laughter ] Now, there’s already all kinds
of normalized, accepted pay-to-play in
the college-entry process, from expensive
test-prep classes, to legacy admissions, to just
writing a massive check — which is also known as
“institutional advancement.” But the guy who set up
this scheme — a businessman named
William Singer — explained in court that
he was giving wealthy parents a way to get around
all of that. -In one phone called,
authorities listened as Singer told one parent
how it all worked, saying,
“There’s a front door, which means you get in
on your own. The back door is through
institutional advancement, which is 10 times
as much money. And I’ve created
the side door.” -Imagine having
enough money to legally bribe your kids’s way
into an elite college, and thinking, “How about,
instead, we Photoshop his head onto Michael Phelps’ body?” [ Laughter ] And make no mistake,
the parents in these cases were very aware
of what they were doing. The FBI released one e-mail
written by Huffman when she found out
that her daughter’s school would provide their own
SAT proctor, making it harder
to cheat. She wrote —
and this is a real e-mail — “Ruh-roh. Look like
my daughter’s high school wants to provide
own proctor.” She literally sat down
at a computer and typed the word
“Ruh-roh”… [ Laughter ] …making this —
making this the rare case where Scooby Doo
was the criminal. [ Laughter ] [ Cheers and applause ] This scandal… [ As Shaggy ]
“It was you, Scoob.” [ Light laughter ] [ Normal voice ]
This scandal might be the most glaring example
of pay-to-play in college admissions,
but it’s not the only one. There’s already
lots of pay-to-play in the college-admissions world
that’s legal. I mean, just look at the
President of the United States. He went to Wharton, one of
the most prestigious schools in the country,
and he doesn’t even know how to spell the word
“country.” [ Laughter ] And if you asked him to spell
the word “prestigious,” the red squiggle would just
give up and crawl away. [ Laughter ] [ Gun cocks ] [ Gunshot ] [ Cheers and applause ] And let’s not forget,
this is a guy who famously waged a racist campaign
to get President Obama to release his
college transcripts, despite the fact that,
as we learned from Michael Cohen’s
testimony, Trump threatened his own schools
not to release his grades
and test scores. -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. -I shudder to imagine
what Trump’s SAT score was. It was probably
the first time in history the College Board
wrote on someone’s test, “It’s better if
you don’t know.” [ Laughter ] The culture… [ Cheers and applause ] The culture of inequality
and pay-to-play at the highest levels
of American society has been on full display
over the last 24 hours. From serial fraud
committed by wealthy parents to serial fraud committed by the
president’s campaign chairman, people are finally getting
a glimpse at how it all works. And they’re all saying, in
the words of Felicity Huffman… -“Ruh-roh.” -This has been
“A Closer Look.” [ Cheers and applause ]