When he wasn’t leading rallies or tweeting about personal slights, president-elect Donald Trump spent a handful of campaign days giving legal depositions. In June, he testified about a restaurateur he sued for pulling out of a lease in the Trump hotel in Washington because of Trump’s racist campaign rhetoric. In the winter, he was under oath about Trump University, for a federal fraud class action set for trial Nov. 28 in California. There’s plenty more on the president-elect’s docket, including actions against his hotels, get-rich-quick “university” seminars, and other business dealings. As with so much of Trump’s public life, this is unprecedented. (In one break for Trump, a woman dismissed her suit this month alleging he raped her when she was 13.)
Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world in January, but he still cannot wipe clear his legal challenges. Bill Clinton helped clarify that for him in 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 at the time that Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit could proceed against the then-president. The United States offers immunity from civil liability for official acts committed as president, but matters outside the office are his or her own problem.
Trump’s lawyers have bid to delay this month’s Trump U trial while he’s busy with his presidential transition, and are hoping to avoid the spectacle of the country’s senior official testifying in a courthouse by instead offering video testimony. Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump said was biased against him because of Mexican ancestry, has suggested the two sides settle before trial.
Meanwhile, Trump also pledged in his first 100 days as president to sue each of the dozen women who publicly accused him of unwanted touching or assault. The more legal tangles he gets into or can’t escape, the more Trump will be mired in his own messy personal and corporate problems and the less this rookie politician can focus on serving the people who elected him.