Trump is suing New York over a golf course. That could be a big mistake.

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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By James D. Zirin
James D. Zirin, a former federal prosecutor, is the author of "Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 lawsuits."
June 28, 2021 at 5:00 a.m. CDT


Former president Donald Trump had a contract with the city of New York to operate a golf course in the Bronx. He claims that he spent $30 million on a new clubhouse, restaurant and large pro shop. But just as he was about to open the renovated facility, he found himself on the receiving end of a peremptory “You’re fired!” The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio (D), canceled the contract, saying that because of Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the course was no longer a “first-class, tournament-quality course.” In short, the city determined that Trump had become too toxic to run a golf club.

Trump sued in New York State Supreme Court to reinstate the contract — or to get his $30 million back. He claims he is a billionaire, so $30 million can’t mean that much to him, but he is suing anyway. Which is not in itself surprising. Suing is what Trump does. Over the years of his professional history, as I wrote in my book, “Plaintiff in Chief,” Trump became more than litigious — he acquired a litigation mentality. He sued at the drop of a hat. He sued for sport. He sued to achieve a sense of control, and he sued to make a point. He sued as a way to destroy or silence those who crossed him. Often, he would sue and, shortly afterward, drop the suit. Or, years after, settle it. Trump viewed the law not as a system of rules to be obeyed and ethical ideals to be respected, but as a potent weapon to be used against his adversaries or a hurdle to be sidestepped when it got in his way.
But that was then. A four-year presidency interrupted Trump’s business career, and a lot happened in those four years. Trump faces legal jeopardy on several fronts. It’s very possible that the legal system he has wielded as a weapon and plaything for his entire adult life has been wrested from him. Now lawsuits can mean one thing above all: criminal exposure.
Civil suits may pry out the information we need to hold Trump accountable
Trump has a super-litigious personality with an unfortunate tendency toward “ready, fire, aim.” He has never hesitated to sue to further his personal objectives. The interesting question is whether this lawsuit was a bad move when he is under criminal investigation in New York, arising from his murky financial affairs, and in Washington and Georgia, from his allegedly seditious conduct on and leading up to Jan. 6. People under criminal investigation are wise to lie low.



Trump’s statement about the golf course contretemps was irrelevant: “The City has no right to terminate our contract. Mayor de Blasio’s actions are purely politically motivated, have no legal merit, and are yet another example of the mayor’s efforts to advance his own partisan agenda and interfere with free enterprise.” But the city had the right to cancel the golf course contract for any reason; at issue in the lawsuit, then, is whether it owes Trump anything for the renovations and improvements.
But by suing, Trump has exposed himself to broad discovery, by way of the depositions and document requests customary in civil litigation. The New York civil discovery statutes provide that “there shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof,” and the courts have interpreted these provisions liberally to give each side a full preview of the other’s case.
Attorneys for the city undoubtedly will want to probe in discovery the state of Trump’s finances. He is said to be deeply in debt. His precarious financial situation may disqualify him from operating a tournament-worthy golf course. They will also want to go into what Trump meant on Jan. 6 when he perpetuated the “big lie,” asserting that there had been mass election fraud, encouraging an unruly mob of his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop the certification of an election he had “won in a landslide” and to “take back our country.” The city will certainly call witnesses from the PGA and the British Open who would be expected to testify that they canceled plans for tournaments at Trump golf courses because Trump’s name has become mud.
I bought the website Trump.org. Then Donald Trump came after me.
The city lawyers will seek financial documents to show any connection between the Bronx golf course and Trump’s other business interests. They will want to probe the cost and quality of the improvements Trump claims he made, and may even go into the source of the money. If Trump borrowed the money, they will subpoena the banks and probe his banking relationships, including the financial statements he gave the banks to obtain the loans. They could even get into his controversial tax returns. Trump may well rue the day he brought the lawsuit.




 
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cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
69,497
48,892
113
The goal of litigation is to get at the truth, and Trump historically has not done very well with the truth. The Washington Post counted 30,573 false or misleading claims that he made while in office, and there were many before.
The journalist Tim O’Brien struck a nerve in his 2005 book, “Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald,” when he wrote that Trump’s net worth was between $150 million and $250 million, rather than the $6 billion Trump had told O’Brien he had amassed, or the possibly $2.5 billion reported on the Forbes “rich list.” Trump sued for libel, claiming that the assertion was “egregiously false.” He commenced the action, he said, because he wanted to hurt O’Brien. He told The Post that O’Brien was a “lowlife sleazebag.” “Go sue him,” Trump told his people. “It will cost.” But the shoe was on the other foot when Trump testified on deposition.
Lawyers counted 30 times that day that Trump was caught saying something under oath that wasn’t true about his net worth and income. He had overstated sales at his condominium projects. He had inflated the initiation fee at one of his golf clubs. He had overstated the number of people he employed. When confronted with the truth, Trump blamed others for the misstatement or said he interpreted the truth differently from what the documents showed — in short, alternative facts.



Trump’s false claims on deposition hardly helped him. In 2009, he lost the case on summary judgment, and the appellate court affirmed.
Trump knows all about the dangers of lying under oath. In 1983, a brigade of Polish workers whom Trump hired to do demolition at the site of his flagship Trump Tower sued him and others in federal court for unpaid union pension and medical obligations. Trump denied any knowledge that undocumented workers were laboring at the site.
On deposition he tried to distance himself from the demolition, testifying that “the only thing I did was sign checks when they were sent to me.” He swore that “I really still don’t know there were illegal aliens.”

His testimony was false. He did know. According to the attorney who represented the workers, Trump had a lawyer call him, threatening to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service to have the men deported after the workers got the Labor Department to open a wage and hours case on their behalf. The job foreman testified that Trump “liked the way the men were working on 57th Street. He said: ‘Those guys are good, hard workers.’ ”


In 1991, Judge Charles E. Stewart of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in what should have been a devastating blow to Trump’s name and reputation, ruled that Trump had “knowingly participated” in the breach of duty to the workers. Stewart found Trump’s denials unworthy of belief, and fixed damages for unpaid contributions, interest, attorney’s fees and court costs.
In 1998, after 15 years of litigation, three rounds of discovery, a 16-day trial and two appeals, Trump settled the case. The settlement was a complete capitulation. By agreement of the parties, the records of the deal were sealed and remained so until November 2017, almost 20 years after the settlement, when a federal court over Trump’s objection ordered them opened to public view. After lawyering the plaintiffs to the ground, Trump paid a total of $1.375 million, with $500,000 going to a union benefits fund and the rest for attorney’s fees. Normally, a settling defendant settles for less. This “settlement” was for 100 percent of the damages fixed by the court. Trump saved nothing by litigating. He had lost the case.

Discovery in other civil litigation may expose Trump to reputational loss or criminal investigation. The writer E. Jean Carroll has claimed that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room around 1995, years before he was president. As president, Trump publicly called her a liar, claimed falsely that he had never even met her and gave an interview to the Hill in which he was quoted as saying, “She’s not my type.” Carroll sued for libel and demanded in discovery a DNA sample for comparison with a telltale stain on the dress she had worn at the time of the incident. The case has not yet reached the discovery stage, because Trump was able to keep the lawsuit at bay while he was president. The Justice Department is seeking dismissal on grounds of sovereign immunity, and the issue is on appeal. If the government is successful, Carroll will be left without a remedy.
Trump has been a Teflon man who claims to have won even when he has lost in court. But litigation is expensive, time-consuming and dangerous. No one can really predict the twists and turns it takes. Oscar Wilde and Alger Hiss brought lawsuits that exploded in their faces, and both went to jail. This time, Trump may have played out his string, and all over a golf course in the Bronx.
 
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