Like many presidential candidates before him, Donald Trump has an extensive legal background. But while his predecessors were lawyers, Trump and his companies were the plaintiff or defendant in at least 3,500 legal cases over the last few decades, according to an extensive USA Today investigation. The number is unprecedented for a presidential candidate and much higher than normal even for property tycoons. Some highlights from the report:
- The cases range from huge, multi-million dollar corporate lawsuits to lawsuits against gamblers who stiffed Trump casinos. At least 70 new cases have been filed since he entered the GOP race last year. Around 50 civil lawsuits are still open—and Trump wouldn't become immune from them as president.
- Trump and his companies were the plaintiff in around 1,900 cases, the defendant in 1,450 more, and another 500 cases were bankruptcy or other third-party cases.
- The records reviewed by USA Today weren't always clear about who won the cases, but Trump's side was the definite winner in 451 cases and the loser in 38.
- Trump has claimed he "never settles" lawsuits, though the review of records found at least 100 cases where settlements were made. Most of them involved injured casino patrons.
- Patterns that emerge from the lawsuits are Trump's willingness to go to great lengths to protect his brand, his readiness to distance himself from deals gone bad, his keenness to minimize taxes, and his policy of spending a lot of money to gain the upper hand even in small cases.
- Analysts say that while Trump's methods may work in the business world, they wouldn't make him a great president. "He's operating as his own boss and a CEO-on-steroids mentality, where you snap a finger and things get done," presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says. "But a lot of good governance is on learning how to build proper coalitions and how to have patience with the glacial pace of government, and you’re forced to abide by laws at all times."
- Hillary Clinton has been named in around 900 lawsuits over the last 25 years or so, according to state and federal records. Around a third of those were filed by people with anti-government grievances who sued everybody on a list of top government officials.
(One of the active Trump lawsuits involves former customers who say Trump University was a scam.