• President Trump has been sued at least 135 times since taking office.
• The most recent lawsuit was filed by Twitter users blocked by the president.
• Many of the lawsuits pertain to his presidency, with cases regarding the Emoluments Clause, the travel bans, and his executive order threatening sanctuary cities.
• Others, including the litigation over Trump University and a libel suit brought by a former contestant on The Apprentice, stem from Trump's behavior as a private citizen before taking office.
Don't let anyone tell you the Trump administration isn't setting records. The president has been sued more than 100 times in federal court since his inauguration.
This week, a group of Twitter users filed a lawsuit against the president after he blocked them on the social media platform. The legal complaint is just the most recent in a dizzying array of lawsuits that have been brought against the president since he took office on January 20, 2017.
While it's not uncommon for a president to accumulate some lawsuits over the course of his administration, what is happening now is unlike anything we've seen in recent history. According to the Boston Globe, by May 5, President Trump had been sued a remarkable 134 times in federal court since his inauguration.
To put things in perspective, Obama had acquired 26 suits against him at that point in his presidency per the Globe; George W. Bush, seven.
"Trump is facing a different situation," conservative lawyer Jonathan Turley told the newspaper. "It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. Every group, every aggrieved person, is filing lawsuits." If every aggrieved person is indeed filing suit, then the president can expect a good deal more.
For now, 69 of those aforementioned 134 suits have already been thrown out, but that still leaves 65 pieces of litigation against the president. Here, a field guide to all the different ways Trump is being taken to court:
Throughout his presidency Donald Trump has used his Twitter account as a way to "bypass" traditional media a speak directly to his constituents. Now, several Twitter users who were blocked by the president's @realDonaldTrump handle are suing.
Represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the plaintiffs argue that Trump is infringing on their First Amendment rights by cutting them off from a public forum (his Twitter feed) due to their expressing opinions he does not like. According to the New York Times, these plaintiffs claim that "his account amounts to a public forum that he, as a government official, cannot bar people from."
"The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another," reads the lawsuit said, which was filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The Twitter users are also suing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Dan Scavino, who serves as Trump's director of social media.
The Emoluments Clause
Within the Constitution, there is a relatively obscure mandate known as the foreign Emoluments Clause. The provision, which lies in Article I, reads:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
This is widely interpreted to mean that one cannot profit from the presidency. Prior to Trump's election, the Emoluments Clause rarely made waves; but given the president's stake in international businesses, and his reluctance to completely divest himself of his assets, the clause has not only become a buzz-worthy topic on cable news, but also the foundation for multiple lawsuits.
In June, the Washington Post reported that 196 Democratic members of Congress plan to file a lawsuit against President Trump alleging that by "retaining interests in a global business empire he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders."
Right now, all of the plaintiffs in the legal action are Democrats, lead by Richard Blumenthal in Senate and John Conyers Jr. in the House, but Republicans will reportedly be invited to join the complaint, should they so choose.
Even if no Republicans join the lawsuit, it will still set a record for the most congressional plaintiffs in a legal action taken against a president.
Remarkably, it's not the only unprecedented lawsuit against the president this week.
According to the New York Times, the state of Maryland and Washington D.C. filed a lawsuit Monday, "alleging that [Trump's] failure to shed his private businesses has undermined public trust and violated constitutional bans against self-dealing," and arguing that "businesses owned by Mr. Trump divert customers away from businesses the District of Columbia and Maryland either own, license or tax, harming those governments financially."
This is the first time in history that a state has sued the president over the Emoluments Clause.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) initially filed a lawsuit against Trump regarding the Emoluments Clause on January 23. In particular, they questioning Trump Organization hotels, and whether foreign officials are opting to stay at Trump properties in order to curry political favor.
Following their initial filing, CREW has sought out additional plaintiffs, including high-end hotelier Eric Goode, the union Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, and event-booker Jill Phaneuf.
According to the New York Times, Trump Organization lawyer Sheri Dillon, "has disputed that the Emoluments Clause applies to hotel rooms being rented by representatives of foreign governments, arguing that payments based on market rates for services do not represent an emolument."
Dillon also said that the hotels would donate any profits that resulted from foreign leaders staying in the hotels to the Treasury.
However, Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor of constitutional law and one of CREW's lawyers, said that Goode's involvement in the case has ensured that it will be taken seriously. "It makes it inconceivable that this lawsuit would be tossed out," he told the Times. "As a hotel and restaurant owner, Mr. Goode will be harmed due to a loss of revenue by defendant’s ongoing financial interest in businesses which receive payments from foreign states, the United States, or state or local government."
Washington's Cork Wine Bar has also filed a similar lawsuit against Trump. They claim to be losing business to Trump's D.C. hotel, and while they are not seeking damages, they would like for him to divest from the Trump Organization wholly (or to close the hotel).
In late March of 2017, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel approved a $25 million deal under which President Trump settled multiple lengthy lawsuits. While Trump did not admit to wrongdoing, he did agree to pay roughly 3,730 students of the now-defunct Trump University who believe they were defrauded by the for-profit real estate seminar program and its misleading claims. While Trump had previously vowed never to settle, after the election, he reportedly determined he didn't not have time for a trial.
“The court finds that the amount offered in settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable, and accordingly concludes that this factor weighs in favor of final approval,” wrote Judge Curiel. It is possible that the cases could be appealed.
On January 31, San Francisco became the first city to file a lawsuit against the president. Their case took issue with his executive order targeting sanctuary cities (municipalities which have vowed to limit their cooperation with federal immigration policies) and his threat to withhold federal funding from them.
In April of 2017, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III blocked the administration from enforcing the executive order. He wrote, "Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration-enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves."
The Muslim Ban
Following each of Trump's executive orders on immigration - better known as travel bans - the president has faced a deluge of litigation from individuals, civil rights organizations such as the ACLU, and individual states. Both bans have been halted, at least for now.
On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco upheld the injunction against the second iteration of the ban. The injunction was initially put in place by the federal district court that heard the State of Hawaii; Ismail Elshikh vs. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States. Other appellants included John F. Kelly, in his official capacity as Secretary of Homeland Security and Rex W. Tillerson, in his official capacity as Secretary of State.
"We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress," reads the court’s unanimous decision.
Earlier this year, a court in the Fourth Circuit also upheld an injunction against the travel ban. According to the New York Times, the administration is seeking to appeal that case to the Supreme Court.
Back in February, the Ninth Circuit blocked Trump's original travel ban, which was much broader in scope.
Just days before Trump's inauguration, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos sued the then President-elect for defamation. Zervos said that Trump kissed and groped her, claims which Trump publicly denied. He said the allegations were "100% fabricated and made-up charges," "totally false," and "totally made up nonsense," which prompted Zervos's lawyers to ask for an apology. When she didn't get it, she sued.
Litigation is still pending.
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