Education Reform

Why Did Trump Hide His Academic Records if He Did as Well As He Claimed?

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A portrait of Donald Trump hangs on the wall at the New York Military Academy, in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. (Mike Groll/AP)

In 2011, days after Donald Trump challenged President Barack Obama to “show his records” to prove that he hadn’t been a “terrible student,” the headmaster at New York Military Academy got an order from his boss: Find Trump’s academic records and help bury them.

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.”

The former NYMA officials’ recollections add new details to one of the allegations that Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, made before Congress last week. Cohen, who told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that part of his job was to attack Trump’s critics and defend his reputation, said that Trump ordered him “to threaten his high school, his colleges and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”

Trump has frequently boasted that he was a stellar student, but he declined throughout the 2016 campaign to release any of his academic records, telling The Washington Post then, “I’m not letting you look at anything.”

Michael Cohen said in his Feb. 27 testimony that President Trump directed him “to threaten” academic institutions regarding the release of his SAT scores.

Last year, he said he “heard I was first in my class” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business program, where he finished his undergraduate degree, but Trump’s name does not appear on the school’s dean’s list or on the list of students who received academic honors in his class of 1968.

Trump spent five years at the military academy, starting in the fall of 1959, after his father — having concluded that his son, then in the seventh grade, needed a more discipline-focused setting — removed him from his Queens private school and sent him Upstate to NYMA.

At the academy, which modeled its strict code of conduct after the nearby U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Trump loved competing to win contests for cleanest room or best-made bed. Although not known as an academic standout, he was a prominent baseball player and was well known on campus for bringing women there and showing them around. Despite getting a series of Vietnam War medical deferments for bone spurs in his feet, Trump has said that his military academy background provided “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

Trump told The Post during the 2016 campaign that he “did very well under the military system. I became one of the top guys at the whole school.”

He said his parents originally sent him there because “I was a wise guy, and they wanted to get me in line.”

Jones and Coverdale declined to disclose the contents of his transcript.

Those who were aware of the 2011 effort to conceal Trump’s records said the request set off a frenzy at the military academy.

“I know for a fact that in 2011, the decision was made by the superintendent to remove those records and secure them so no one on the staff could get to them,” said Richard Pezzullo, a graduate who worked closely with school officials in a drive to save the school, which was then in financial distress. “People had been making inquiries, and there was a paramount interest in securing those records.”

The boarding school had no formal archive at the time. Jones said he combed through the basement of Scarborough Hall on the academy’s sprawling campus, 60 miles north of New York City, and found the real estate mogul’s transcript in file cabinets containing student records.

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