An astounding number of court battles—from Trump University suits to libel cases—will accompany Trump even as he moves into the White House.
President-elect Donald Trump will be spending the days running up to his inauguration in an unprecedented fashion. Along with choosing his cabinet and scheduling the busiest first day in office ever, the reality television star will also be defending himself in several courts of law.
The real-estate developer turned politician is familiar with the courtroom. As reported by USA Today in June, Trump has been a party to some 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years—a uniquely large number of actions framed by detractors as a telling indicator of a life of crooked dealing, and by supporters as simply the cost of running an enormously successful business in America.
Whatever one’s position on the election, it’s clear that Trump’s ongoing court battles—somewhere around 75, according to the USA Today analysis—are the first of their kind for any president, and because even the highest office in the land is not above the law, will accompany Trump as he moves into the White House.
At issue in Trump’s most well-known and problematic legal battles—the subject of three separate lawsuits in fact—is Trump University, the eponymous real-estate seminar program that former students say was nothing more than a scam selling Trump-made promises of financial success that never materialized and stripped the poor, the naive, and the elderly of life’s savings instead.
The federal class action cases were filed in 2010 and 2013, before Trump made good on his decades of teasing a presidential run. They are both being heard in California, by Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was dragged into the campaign over the summer when Trump told an interviewer that the case was stacked against him because Curiel was “a Mexican,” and explained, “we’re building a wall between here and Mexico.” (Judge Curiel was born in Indiana.)
The fraud case filed in 2010, Low v. Trump University, goes to trial in less than three weeks. The second, Cohen v. Trump, alleges Trump’s “school” was really a criminal organization and violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Lawyers are currently fighting over evidence in that case and a trial date hasn’t been set.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded at the time in a statement that read in part, “This meritless appeal is yet another example of how Donald Trump will do everything in his power to avoid standing trial for allegedly defrauding hundreds of financially struggling New Yorkers at Trump University… We look forward to holding Donald Trump accountable for this brazen scam when he finally faces trial.”
The next relevant date is Dec. 5, when the people’s opening brief is due.
But allegations of fraud are really just the beginning for President Trump.
Most of the 75 open lawsuits are likely going nowhere. More than a dozen of the 20 ongoing federal cases where Trump is a defendant are actual nonsense, filed against the future president along with co-defendants Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even Walt Disney, on behalf of seemingly mentally-ill plaintiffs. (Anyone can file a lawsuit.) The complaints in the wildest cases include allegations of kidnapping by the president-elect and his son—members of the supposed Illuminati.
Others may turn out to be much more legitimate. Members of Trump’s golf course in Jupiter, Florida, are currently suing the flaxen-haired businessman for $2.4 million for taking fees and dues while allegedly blocking admission to the actual club. A former employee of the same club brought a lawsuit last month, alleging she was unlawfully fired after reporting sexual harassment by a coworker.
A hearing is scheduled in Chicago on Nov. 29, in another case alleging Trump’s campaign violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited text messages urging the plaintiff to “Help Make America Great Again!”
And there’s more. In New York State, two open cases are making their way through the courts. Republican consultant Cheryl Jacobus filed a $4 million libel lawsuit after Trump “destroyed her career,” namely by calling her “a dummy” on Twitter. And a status conference is scheduled for next week in the case of Efrain Galicia, who in 2015 sued the then-candidate when one of Trump’s security guards assaulted him during a protest outside of Trump Tower. (There’s a video of the incident.)
Alan Garten told USA Today, “We’ll treat all cases the same way if he’s elected or not—and the results shouldn’t be different in the eyes of the law.”
Though presidential immunity may keep Trump safe from civil liability for any shady schools he starts from the White House or any libelous tweets he sends from Obama’s seized @potus account, litigation involving pre-presidential conduct can proceed as it would had Trump lost the election.