Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 13:23:57 GMT
On Monday, former President Donald Trump sued the congressional committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol in an attempt to keep the committee from getting its hands on roughly 40 documents.
Because of course he did.
There have been very few consistent threads throughout the life of Trump but one of them is this: He sues and sues and sues. He uses litigation as a smokescreen and a way to slow-walk issues in hopes of coming to some sort of settlement that leaves him less exposed or simply to muddle up a problem in the eyes of the public.
Trump sued John Bolton to stop the the publication of a book about the former national security adviser's time in the White House. He threatened to sue CNN because a poll showed him trailing Joe Biden by 14 points. He threatened to sue The New York Times after the newspaper published an article detailing allegations by two women that Trump had inappropriately touched them. He threatened to sue if members of his campaign were not allowed into satellite election offices in Philadelphia. He threatened to sue special counsel Robert Mueller.
There's more. A LOT more. But, you get the idea. Trump uses lawsuits -- and even more frequently the threat of litigation -- as a favorite tool in his public relations toolbox. Do something he doesn't like or he thinks makes him look bad? Lawsuit!
As Michael Kruse wrote in Politico of Trump's litigiousness back in 2019:
"For nearly half a century, Trump ... has used lawsuits as cudgels and prods and publicity stunts. He and his wingmen have used them, or threats of them, to harass, to deflect and delay, to punish opponents and protect his brand, his money, his image, himself. Even in the face of losses, he has used them to find a way to wins.
"The difference now is that Trump's legal arsenal includes not just an array of personal attorneys but the vast resources of the Department of Justice—which at times he has hoped would serve the same role as his most bare-knuckled advocates."
According to an exhaustive database maintained by USA Today, Trump and his business have been involved in more than 4,000(!) lawsuits over the past three decades -- a stunning number that serves as a testament to how the President, even before he was president, used the legal system to fight back when times were hard for him.
"Does anyone know more about litigation than Trump?" Trump said of himself on the campaign trail in 2016. "I'm like a Ph.D. in litigation."
(Sidebar: I'm like the mayor of Dunkin'.)
The truth is that Trump loses -- a lot -- in the legal realm. Or never even really fights.
Think back to that 2016 campaign when more than a dozen women came forward alleging that Trump had sexually harassed them.
"Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign," Trump said in October 2016. "Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."
He has filed a total of zero lawsuits against the women.
The point of all this litigiousness -- and the threat of litigiousness -- isn't, really, to win. It's to distract and delay. It's to show that he is fighting back and taking it to the various people, places and things who have wronged him.
What he's hoping is that very few people dig beyond the surface of these many lawsuits because, of course, he knows that his legal position -- in almost every case -- is incredibly precarious. It's all a house of cards; take a closer look and it collapses.
Will Trump win this latest case to keep documents from the January 6 select committee? If past is prologue, probably not. But that's not really the point. All Trump is trying to do is use the legal system to muddy the waters and change the conversation around him and what he did -- and didn't do -- on that fateful day.