Throughout his business and political careers, Donald Trump has been involved in thousands of lawsuits.
Donald Trump announced this week that he would use the courts to try to stop publication of an unfavorable book about him. But a review of his history reveals his contradictory views about the circumstances in which lawsuits are and are not legitimate.
Trump's Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday aiming to block publication of a book by his former national security adviser, John Bolton. Trump warned Monday that Bolton might face a "criminal problem" if the book revealed information the administration deemed classified. Trump asserted that "every conversation" he has had as president is classified.
The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Trump may also sue his niece, Mary Trump, to stop her from publishing a book about their family.
Throughout his business and political careers, Trump has been involved in thousands of lawsuits. He has frequently threatened to sue his critics and enemies, but has often attacked the lawsuits filed against him as illegitimate.
The White House did not respond to an inquiry for comment about these inconsistencies.
Here are 18 reasons Trump thinks it's fine to sue:
To block books that are critical of him
In addition to his attempts to silence John Bolton, Trump threatened in January 2018 to sue author Michael Wolff, his publisher Henry Holt, and one of Wolff's sources. Trump called Wolff's unflattering "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" a "really boring and untruthful book."
To punish opponents for negative ads
Trump threatened in 2015 to sue the Club for Growth for millions of dollars after the conservative group ran ads questioning his conservative credentials. "We will not sit idly by and allow special interest groups and political action committees like yours to defame Mr. Trump," his lawyer wrote. He made a similar threat that year against primary opponent John Kasich over ads produced by a super PAC that supported the Ohio governor's run.
To retaliate against the media
Trump reportedly threatened to sue the Associated Press over an October 2015 article about a Trump-branded project in Panama. In May 2016, he told the Washington Post that he would "be bringing more libel suits" against "unfair" media outlets, including "maybe against you folks."
To stop satire
In 2013, Trump brought — and then dropped — a $5 million lawsuit against television host Bill Maher. Maher had satirized Trump's racist crusade against Barack Obama, claiming that Obama was not born in the United States, by offering to donate money to charity if Trump could prove he himself was not the son of an orangutan.
To stop stations from airing negative ads about him
Trump filed a lawsuit in April against a Wisconsin television station for airing a super PAC ad hitting his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also threatened other stations with legal action and loss of broadcasting licenses if they continued to run the spot, which he claimed was misleading.
To undermine questions about his net worth
Trump unsuccessfully sued author Timothy O'Brien after O'Brien's 2005 book "TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald" put Trump's net worth at only $150 million to $250 million. Trump, who had claimed to be worth more than $5 billion, claimed this was defamation.
To avoid local taxes
According to a 2018 ProPublica report, Trump's companies have sued local governments to get reduced tax assessments. The outlet found "at least nine new lawsuits" filed by Trump's companies "arguing for lower tax bills" since he was elected.
To stop beauty pageant contestants from questioning his competitions
Trump announced in 2012 that he was suing a "Miss Pennsylvania," Sheena Monnin, after she wrote on Facebook that his Miss Universe competition was "fraudulent" and "trashy."
"When she's using the word 'fraud,' that's pretty strong, so we're going to be suing her on that basis," Trump told NBC News.
To force a television network to air his beauty pageants
Trump sued Univision in 2015 after the network terminated its contract with the Miss Universe Organization over his "insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants." In his breach-of-contract and defamation suit, Trump called the move a "politically motivated attempt to suppress" his free speech.
To silence women who accuse him of sexual predation
Over the past four years, at least 41 women have accused Trump of sexual assault. In addition to denying all of the charges, he threatened during the 2016 campaign to sue his accusers. "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over," he vowed.
To eliminate Obamacare
After backing previous legal challenges to Obamacare, Trump announced last month that he would again push the Supreme Court to strike down the law in its entirety. "We want to terminate health care under Obamacare," he told reporters.
To challenge Ted Cruz's eligibility to be president
Trump said in February 2016 that he might ask the courts to rule Republican primary opponent Sen. Ted Cruz ineligible for the presidency based on the fact that he was born in Canada. "If @TedCruz doesn't clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads," he tweeted, "I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen."
To challenge his loss in the 2016 Iowa caucuses
After Cruz won the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Trump claimed he had been the victim of fraud. He threatened to challenge the results in court, tweeting: "Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified."
To force a prominent chef to open a restaurant at his hotel
Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Chef José Andrés' company in 2015 after it pulled out of a deal over Trump's racist comments about Mexican immigrants. Andrés countersued. The case was settled in 2017.
To go after members of Congress who oppose him
In October 2019, Trump told supporters he wanted to sue Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the impeachment process. "I actually told my lawyers, I said, 'Sue him anyway,'" he said after Schiff paraphrased a conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "He's got immunity, but they can't mean immunity for that. I said, 'Sue him anyway. Even if we lose, the American public will understand.' And sue Nancy Pelosi, or maybe we should just impeach them. Because they're lying, and what they are doing is a terrible thing for our country."
To punish Twitter users who trick him
After a Twitter user tricked Trump into retweeting a photo of serial killers in 2014, Trump angrily threatened a lawsuit. "Some jerk fraudulently tweeted that his parents said I was a big inspiration to them + pls RT—out of kindness I retweeted," Trump said. "Maybe I'll sue."
To force localities to enforce federal immigration laws
The Trump administration filed lawsuits against governments in California, New Jersey, and Washington state in February over "sanctuary" laws limiting state and local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Trump had previously sued California over the same issue in 2018, calling its laws "illegal and unconstitutional."
To punish Lance Armstrong for doping
After cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted in 2013 to doping, Trump repeatedly tweeted that he would and should be sued. "Lance Armstrong's liability & lawsuits against him have just increased tenfold—his lawyers will be very happy—lots of fees!" he said in one. "Lance Armstrong just got sued by the Federal Government-they want their money back-I told you so! What was he thinking when he did that [interview]?" he asked in another.
Here are eight kinds of lawsuits he strongly opposes:
Lawsuits against his "charitable" foundation
Trump complained in 2018 after New York's attorney general sued his charitable foundation that the "sleazy" Democrats "are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won't settle this case!" He paid $2 million to settle the case in 2019.
Lawsuits against his "university"
Trump was similarly defiant when former students sued his defunct "Trump University" for fraud. Trump claimed in 2016: "Trump University has a 98% approval rating. I could have settled but won't out of principle!" He paid $25 million to claimants in a 2018 settlement.
Lawsuits against his campaign over coronavirus safety
Trump's campaign plans to hold its first rally since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the nation this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those signing up to attend have been told they must sign a waiver acknowledging their risk of contracting the coronavirus and waiving any right to sue Trump 2020 or the venue should they be infected.
Lawsuits against businesses that spread the coronavirus
Trump has pushed to provide immunity to businesses that reopen from suits filed by customers and employees who get the virus, even if the business was responsible. He demanded in May that Congress pass "lawsuit indemnification" as part of its next coronavirus response legislation.
Lawsuits against him while he is in office
Trump has sought to block any lawsuits filed against him during his presidency, claiming immunity. "I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president," he told an audience of conservative teens last summer, asserting that the Constitution grants him protection from even being investigated.
Lawsuits for malpractice under Obamacare
Trump angrily tweeted in 2012 that, according to a right-wing site, medical malpractice claims would increase under Obamacare. "Remember how @ObamaCare did not have any tort reform? Now the trial lawyers are getting ready for even more lawsuits," he asserted.
Lawsuits about medical malpractice in general
Trump has been critical of other medical malpractice torts. In 2017, he proposed strict caps on damages, a shorter statute of limitation for claims, and other rules to make it harder for patients to sue. His budget proposal stated this would "reduce defensive medicine … limit liability, reduce provider burden, promote evidence-based practices, and strengthen the physician-patient relationship."
Lawsuits brought by Alex Rodriguez
After New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez was implicated in a performance-enhancing drug scandal in 2013, Trump repeatedly attacked him. He tweeted, "Druggie @AROD is now scheming to sue the @Yankees. He will go down as the biggest sports embarrassment of all time." Rodriguez did not sue the Yankees.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.