Trump Has 75 Ongoing Legal Battles -- Which Media Are Ignoring During Their Breathless FBI Letter Coverage
Research ››› ››› JARED HOLT
Media have breathlessly covered a new letter from the FBI saying the agency is looking into newly discovered emails surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. But as outlets continue to obsess over Clinton, they are ignoring the many actual lawsuits and scandals associated with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Media Breathlessly Hype FBI Letter
Media Hype False Idea That The FBI “Reopened” Clinton Email Investigation. After Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) claimed that a letter FBI director James Comey sent to congressional leaders meant the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, media adopted the spin even though the letter did not actually state that the case was being re-examined. [Media Matters, 10/28/16]
Journalists Obsess Over FBI Letter On Sunday News Shows. Political reporters appearing on Sunday news shows October 30 failed to ask surrogates for Republican nominee Donald Trump about new investigative reports regarding Trump sexually “humiliating” one woman and assaulting another, lying about charitable donations, and withdrawing an offer to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to be his vice presidential running mate. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only host to challenge a Trump surrogate on any of these reports, while other solely discussed Comey’s letter to congressional leaders. [Media Matters, 10/30/16]
Trump Faces At Least 75 Pending Lawsuits On A Variety Of Matters
USA Today: “At Least 75 Of The 4,000-Plus Lawsuits Involving Trump And His Businesses Remain Open.” “The number of unresolved cases” regarding Trump and his businesses, campaign, and other organizations is “unprecedented for a presidential candidate,” according to a USA Today special report. The newspaper’s “ongoing, nationwide analysis of state and federal court records” found that “at least 75 of the 4,000-plus lawsuits involving Trump and his businesses” remained open two weeks before Election Day. From the October 25 article:
On the first anniversary of the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump spent much of the day in a setting he knows well — a room full of high-priced lawyers battling out a civil lawsuit.
Trump paused his campaigning June 16 to answer questions under oath in one of his lawsuits against two celebrity chefs. He had sued Geoffrey Zakarian and José Andrés after they backed out of a restaurant deal in response to Trump’s inflammatory statements about Mexican immigrants.
The two-hour deposition was at least the third time Trump had to leave the campaign trail to be deposed by attorneys in one of his organization’s many lawsuits.
Just two weeks before Election Day, at least 75 of the 4,000-plus lawsuits involving Trump and his businesses remain open, according to an ongoing, nationwide analysis of state and federal court records by USA TODAY. Trump is running well behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in most polls — about 5 points behind in the popular vote in RealClearPolitics' rolling average of national polls. But if Trump were to win, the number of unresolved cases is unprecedented for a presidential candidate, according to political scientists and historians.
Trump faces significant open litigation tied to his businesses: angry members at his Jupiter, Fla. golf course say they were cheated out of refunds on their dues and a former employee at the same club claims she was fired after reporting sexual harassment. There’s a fraud case brought by Trump University students who say the mogul’s company ripped them off for tens of thousands in tuition for a sham real estate course.
Trump is also defending lawsuits tied to his campaign. A disgruntled GOP political consultant sued for $4 million saying Trump defamed her. Another suit, a class action, says the campaign violated consumer protection laws by sending unsolicited text messages.
If elected, the open lawsuits will tag along with Trump. He would not be entitled to immunity, and could be required to give depositions or even testify in open court. That could chew up time and expose a litany of uncomfortable private and business dealings to the public.
One Trump case, over non-payment of tips to caterers at Trump SoHo Hotel in New York City, is scheduled to go to trial a week before Election Day. [USA Today, 10/25/16]
NY Times: Trump University, "A Series Of Seminars Held In Hotels," Faces Three Pending Lawsuits Alleging Misrepresentation. The New York Times described Trump's now-defunct Trump University as "not a real university at all, but a series of seminars held in hotels across the country" about real estate. Trump University is currently facing multiple pending lawsuits brought by former students and by the state of New York alleging misrepresentation. From the February 26 article:
The now-defunct Trump University, the subject of one of Marco Rubio's attacks on Donald J. Trump at the Republican presidential debate on Thursday night, was not a real university at all but a series of seminars held in hotels across the country that promised to share Mr. Trump's real estate investing acumen with students. It is still embroiled in lawsuits accusing it of misrepresentation.
Those who ultimately bought premium packages paid as much as $35,000 for the privilege of additional training, called mentorships and apprenticeships. "Seventy-six percent of the world's millionaires made their fortunes in real estate," Mr. Trump said in an email marketing blast sent to tens of thousands of potential customers. "Now it's your turn. My father did it, I did it, and now I'm ready to teach you how to do it."
As many as 7,000 people across the country bought the sales pitch, spending an estimated $40 million. Both the State of New York and many of the students are now suing Mr. Trump for misrepresentation. Three cases are pending: one in New York brought by the attorney general and two in California, certified as class actions. [The New York Times, 2/26/16]
CNN: Trump Foundation Under Investigation In New York. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told CNN on September 13 that his office has “had correspondence” with the Trump Foundation “to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.” Schneiderman noted that his office has “been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety” as a nonprofit organization. As CNN explained, the investigation “comes amid a series of reports by The Washington Post that Trump spent money from his charity, The Donald J. Trump Foundation, on himself, used it to recycle others' contributions to make them appear to have come from him and hasn't given to the foundation since 2008.” [CNN.com, 9/13/16]
The Guardian: Trump Lawyers Ordered To Appear In Court For Allegations Trump Raped 13-Year-Old Girl. Lawyers representing Trump and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein have been ordered to appear in court for a status conference in a civil lawsuit from a woman who accused Trump of raping her when she was 13, The Guardian reported. According to the report, the court date is scheduled for December 16. From the October 12 article:
A federal judge in New York has ordered counsel for Donald Trump and the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to appear in court along with the attorney for a woman referred to only as “Jane Doe” who alleges the Republican presidential nominee raped her when she was 13.
Judge Ronnie Abrams has slated an initial status conference in the civil lawsuit for 16 December in a New York district court.
The order raises the extraordinary prospect, were Trump to win the 8 November battle for the White House, of counsel for a US president-elect being called into federal court in proceedings relating to allegations of rape of an underage girl.
The court order gives no details of the legal complaint raised by “Jane Doe”. It instructs all parties to the case to set out in advance the nature of the allegations and the “principal defenses”, as well as any previous motions and discovery as well as the “estimated length of trial”.
The original federal lawsuit, filed in June, alleged that “Jane Doe” was sexually assaulted by Trump in 1994 at Epstein’s Manhattan home. Further claims were made that the real estate billionaire raped the then teenager at parties hosted by Epstein on the Upper East Side. [The Guardian, 10/12/16]
Washingtonian: Restaurant Lawsuit Over Trump’s Racist Comments Still Isn’t Settled. Washingtonian magazine reported Trump launched lawsuits against restaurant owners who pulled out of his planned D.C. hotel after Trump made racist comments about Mexicans when announcing his presidential bid in August 2015. In June, Trump gave a video-recorded deposition for the lawsuit. From the October 23 article:
All of that started to fall apart on June 16, 2015—the now-infamous day that Donald Trump launched his White House bid with three sentences about Mexican immigrants that we’re still talking about more than a year later: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
We all know what happened next. Trump the candidate became greater than anyone (maybe even he) imagined. The GOP threatened to implode. And right here on Pennsylvania Avenue, Andrés and Zakarian shocked Trump the businessman by yanking their restaurants from the Old Post Office. Trump’s company sued those of the chefs for $10 million apiece. They countersued.
The Trumps sued Andrés’s company on July 31, 2015, and Zakarian’s company three days later. The chefs’ companies- filed countersuits on October 7 and September 15, respectively. As of press time, none of the suits had been resolved. Among the issues at play are whether the restaurants would have actually suffered as a result of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and how much the hotel might suffer because of the chefs’ mutiny. Trump himself said under oath that he doesn’t know how successful the property will end up being: “I’ll tell you in about five years. I just don’t know.” [Washingtonian, 10/23/16]
Slate: Lawsuit From Trump Golf Club Worker Over Anti-Gay Harassment Is In “Court-Mandated Mediation.” An October 24 Slate report detailed the accusations from a worker at the New Jersey Trump National Golf Club in 2014, a case now in “court-mandated mediation,” about “intense homophobic harassment.” From the October 24 article:
Shortly after Eleazar Andres took a job as a maintenance worker at New Jersey’s Trump National Golf Club in 2014, his life became a living hell. When he told his co-workers that he was gay, Andres became the target of intense homophobic harassment. His co-workers routinely called him “maricón,” “faggot,” and “fag,” and regularly threw rocks and golf balls at him. One of his harassers threw a rock at his head so hard that it sent him to the hospital.
These horrors are alleged in a lawsuit that Andres filed for harassment and discrimination in New Jersey state court. (The case is currently in court-mandated mediation.) But the allegations don’t end there. Rather, Andres’ suit documents a stunning negligence of the persistent harassment by management at the Trump National Golf Club—negligence that enabled further discrimination and ultimately curdled into retaliation when Andres dared to speak out. His complaint is an indictment of the culture of unlawful harassment fostered at one of Trump’s prized properties, a culture quite similar to the atmosphere of sexual harassment that purportedly pervaded some of Trump’s other workplaces.
As Andres’ suit documents, his direct supervisor actually witnessed several incidents of name-calling and physical abuse. Andres also lodged several formal complaints with this supervisor regarding his hostile work environment. The supervisor did nothing to ameliorate the situation. Following his hospitalization for the assault and battery he suffered, Andres spoke to one of the golf course’s managers. The manager said he would take care of the problem. But when Andres asked for information about his attackers for a police report he planned to file, the manager refused. Andres filed the police report anyway and informed management that he no longer felt safe going to work. Management promptly fired him.
Andres is now suing Trump National Golf Club under New Jersey’s robust nondiscrimination law, alleging that he experienced sexual orientation harassment, a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and unlawful retaliation. He is also suing for assault and battery. He argues that the club is liable “for the acts constituting hostile work environment” and “sexual orientation harassment” because it “failed to properly address” his complaints and “failed to implement any preventative or remedial measures to protect against unlawful harassment” and discrimination. Andres then lists a variety of training programs and policies recognized by the courts as effective tools for combatting discrimination.
Rather than implementing these policies, Andres argues, the club displayed “egregious” and “willful indifference” to his ceaseless homophobic harassment, an indifference that allowed the mistreatment to escalate dangerously. Instead of taking “proper corrective action,” the club terminated Andres’ employment “as a result of his complaints of workplace harassment and discrimination”—unlawful retaliation under New Jersey law. Andres also claims that the club is vicariously liable for the assault and battery he suffered at the hands of the club’s employees. [Slate, 10/24/16]
Yahoo! News: U.S. Intelligence Officials Are Examining Ties Between Trump Advisor And Kremlin. Ties between Trump advisor Carter Page and the Kremlin are being “actively monitored and investigated” by U.S. intelligence officials, Yahoo! News reported. Sources told Yahoo! News that senior members of Congress have discussed Page in relation to Russia’s suspected attempts to influence U.S. elections. From the September 23 article:
U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.
The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.
Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.” [Yahoo! News, 9/23/16]