Forget about Robert Mueller for a minute. Yeah, I know, Mueller is the 400 lb gorilla in the room, who might just hold the key to ridding us of the Toddler in Chief once and for all. But believe it or not, Mueller may be the least of Trump’s problems right now. Mueller may be able to impeach Trump, but there are other people out there who want to make him seriously poor. And worse. There are three cases brewing in civil court right now that can clobber Trump. One you all know. The second you may know about. And the third has flown almost completely under the radar until right now. Here they are.
Pop quiz! Q: Who represented Donald Trump in the original lawsuit seeking to break Stormy Daniels non-disclosure agreement?
A: Nobody. The original lawsuit filed by Michael Avenetti had the principals of Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, representing a “David Dennison,” and an LLC created by Cohen to pay Stormy Daniels. Trump’s name did not appear in the original suit, the beef was between Cohen and Daniels. Trump joined himself to the case when he admitted to being “David Dennison” in a motion filed by his attorneys to move the case to a federal court, hoping for a friendlier venue to force the issue into secret binding arbitration. Avenatti has jumped on Trump with both feet, filing a motion, to be heard on April 30th in federal court, seeking discovery of documents, and the right to depose Trump. The danger to Trump is that both the discovered documents, as well as the deposition testimony could become public in a trial. The hidden danger is that success in this trial could bring out a rash of other NDA bound women, seeking to break their contracts, leading to more discovery, juicier tales of sexual peculiarities, and mounting legal bills.
This case made a splash when it was filed, but then it just kind of laid fallow in the slow grinding gears of the justice system. Summer Zervos is an ex-Apprentice contestant who was one of 19 women who came out publicly accusing Trump of sexual misconduct following the release of the Access Hollywood video. As is his wont, Trump went over the top in his denials, calling all of the women liars, and threatening to sue them, which led Zervos to file a defamation suit against Trump. Last week a NY state Supreme Court judge threw out a motion from Trump’s lawyer, the indefatigable Marc Kasowitz, to throw out the case. Zervos is being represented by the great white shark of civil attorneys, Gloria Allred. Allred has already made Bill Cosby’s life a living hell, and she aims to do the same to Trump. Kasowitz will likely appeal the ruling, and being Kasowitz, it is just as likely that he will lose. Once again, discovery will be next up to bat in the case, and Allred is licking her chops so hard at the thought of deposing Trump that she has Revlon on her earrings. Unlike the Daniels case, punitive monetary damages will certainly be sought, and again, the real damage is the release of discovered documents and deposition testimony at trial.
The emoluments case
This one came as a shot out of the blue a couple of days ago. The cities of Washington DC and Baltimore Maryland filed suit a while back in federal court, alleging that Trump was in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution by receiving money from foreign governments and businesses by continuing to operate his Washington DC hotel while President. Apparently, it seems that the cities were claiming that local businesses, mainly bars, restaurants, and hotels, were being adversely impacted, as customers that may well have normally visited those establishments went instead to the Trump property to curry favor with the President. The court agreed that the plaintiffs had legal standing, and allowed the suit to continue.
The court’s 47-page opinion was a scathing rejection of the Justice Department’s contention that only the Congress could adjudicate the emoluments clause. The court went to great lengths to point out the likelihood that a GOP controlled House and Senate would not honor their constitutional oversight mandate against a sitting GOP President. The court also pointed out that the constitution did not state that Congress was the sole arbiter of the emoluments clause, and that federal courts ruled on issues of constitutionality on an almost daily basis.
The greatest risk to Trump here is that of discovery. If the suit is allowed to continue, and discovery is allowed, there is the very real threat that the plaintiffs will ask for, and could receive, access to Trump’s tax returns, to aid in judging the amount of foreign income Trump derives from operating the hotel, indicating the severity of his violation of the emoluments clause. Again, if the case proceeded to trial, the information in the tax returns would become public knowledge through its discussion in testimony.
There is one case that I did not include here, that of former Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal. She is not here for one simple reason. Although she wants to talk about Trump, he is, in fact, collateral damage. Her NDA is not with Trump or Michael Cohen, rather with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, which paid McDougal $150,000 for her story, and then declined to publish it. Trump is not a party to that suit, and it appears that AMI may fold its tent on this one, having already stated publicly that Ms. McDougal is free to respond to media questions.
Recently, all of the media attention has been on the lack of star power defending Trump in the Mueller probe. But it looks like he’s already running into the same problem with these civil suits. Marc Kasowitz vs Gloria Allred is already beginning to look like a sequel to Michael Avenetti vs David Schwartz in the Daniels-Cohen saga. The Justice Department is defending him in the emoluments case, and the problem there is that the JD is pretty much 0 for parking tickets in trying to defend Trump in federal suits. And I have no idea of who is representing Trump in the Daniels affair. The suit joining him to the fray was filed in a California federal court, to match the venue of the state suit Daniels filed, and I’m betting Trump doesn’t even know who the lawyers are, since they’re not east coast, real estate types. Hey, maybe Joe DiGenova and his wife can get a piece of the action, they have some time on their hands since they’re not dealing with Mueller anymore. But it looks like it’s going to be an exciting legal summer for His Lowness, even without the prospect of Mueller landing on him like a ton of bricks. There are plenty of anvils out there too.