Over three decades in business, Donald Trump faced 4,095 lawsuits over everything from contract disputes to claims of defamation. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he has also had some legal troubles as President.
But the sheer number of legal fronts on which Trump is fighting is virtually unprecedented.
To be clear, most modern Presidents have had to fight their way through courts, whether it was Barack Obama facing a historic lawsuit from House Republicans over the implementation of a health care law or Bill Clinton facing a sexual harassment suit or just the usual checks and balances of courts reviewing executive decisions.
But the breadth of Trump’s legal troubles is easy to overlook amid the daily news cycle.
Since the campaign, Trump has settled lawsuits with a campaign aide over leaking to the press, over fraud at Trump University and over a restaurant deal in Washington; faced a special counsel investigation; seen his former campaign head indicted; watched as his former national security adviser, a high-level campaign aide and a foreign policy advisor pleaded guilty to federal charges; been sued for defamation by a porn star and a former “Apprentice” contestant; seen reports that his son-in-law may be under investigation over a bank loan; and had his longtime personal lawyer’s offices raided by federal agents, all while facing unprecedented turnover among his legal team.
Trump has responded by repeatedly tweeting that he is the subject of a “witch hunt;” criticizing Department of Justice officials, reporters and federal prosecutors; minimizing the role of former associates who are in legal trouble; and avoiding questions on his legal woes.
Here’s an overview of Trump’s tangled legal fights.
Trump sued a campaign aide for allegedly leaking to the press
On the eve of the Republican national convention in July of 2016, Trump sued former campaign aide Sam Nunberg for $10 million, alleging that he violated a confidentiality agreement by leaking information to a New York Post reporter. Nunberg denied being a source for the stories. A month later, the two sides said they “amicably” settled the lawsuit, though Trump may have later called Nunberg a “drunk/drugged up loser.”
Trump settled lawsuits over Trump University just before inauguration
Just days before inauguration, Trump settled two long-running federal class-action fraud lawsuits and a state court action which claimed that Trump University deceived students for $25 million. As a candidate, Trump had said he would like to go to court to defend the controversial real estate seminar program, but he later said he would settle for the good of the country.
Trump settled a lawsuit with José Andres over a restaurant at the Trump Hotel
A few months into his presidency, Trump’s personal business announced a settlement with celebrity chef José Andres, who had backed out of a deal to open a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Andres had said that he was forced to end the deal because of Trump’s rhetoric, including a campaign kickoff during which he called Mexicans rapists and criminals.
Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey led to a special counsel
In May of 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The move came after intense criticism of Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s former campaign head, Paul Manafort, was indicted
In October, Trump’s former campaign head, Paul Manafort, and an associate, Rick Gates, were indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy for allegedly using offshore accounts to hide tens of millions of dollars in payments from the Ukraine. Gates later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.
Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty
Shortly after the Manafort and Gates indictments, Mueller’s team announced that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. Court documents referred to unnamed campaign officials who were aware of the contacts.
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty
In December, Trump’s former national security adviser and campaign official, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition. In a statement he said he would cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.
Federal prosecutors may be eyeing Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner
In December, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in New York are looking into a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank AG to the real estate company run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos is suing Trump for defamation
In December of 2017, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos sued Trump in state court for defamation for calling her a liar after she said he groped her in a hotel room. The lawsuit raised a constitutional question: The Supreme Court has ruled that Presidents can be sued in federal court, but it has never decided if that also applies to state courts.
The FBI raided the offices of Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen
In April, the FBI raided the offices and hotel room of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seizing business records, emails and documents. The Justice Department said Cohen is “under criminal investigation” for his business dealings, and the Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 on Cohen’s legal defense, raising questions about campaign finance law. Trump called the raid a “disgraceful situation.”
Adult film star Stormy Daniels is also suing Trump for defamation
In May, adult film actress Stormy Daniels sued Trump in federal court for defamation. Trump had called a composite sketch of an unidentified man that she and her attorney said threatened her in 2011 after she gave an interview to a gossip magazine about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump a “total con job.”
Trump is being sued for allegedly violating the Emoluments Clause
Trump also faces a longshot lawsuit both as President and as an individual in federal court which alleges that he is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause — which bars private payments from foreign governments — for not divesting from his businesses, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Trump’s legal team has been in turmoil throughout all of this
Top law firms have turned down requests to represent Trump, and his legal team has seen unusually high turnover: Attorneys Marc Kasowitz and John Dowd left; Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Tensing ended up not joining; and Ty Cobb retired. Meantime, White House lawyer Don McGahn reportedly threatened to quit when Trump ordered him to fire Mueller in 2017.
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