Legal affairs of Donald Trump

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Donald Trump is an American businessman, television personality, author, and President of the United States.

An analysis by USA Today published in June 2016 found that over the previous three decades, Trump and his businesses have been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court, an unprecedented number for a U.S. presidential candidate.[1] Of the 3,500 suits, Trump or one of his companies were plaintiffs in 1,900; defendants in 1,450; and bankruptcy, third party, or other in 150.[1] Trump was named in at least 169 suits in federal court.[2] A number of other cases (over 150) were in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida (covering Broward County, Florida) since 1983.[3] In about 500 cases, judges dismissed plaintiffs' claims against Trump. In hundreds more, cases ended with the available public record unclear about the resolution.[1] Where there was a clear resolution, Trump won 451 times, and lost 38.[4]

The topics of the legal cases include contract disputes, defamation claims, and allegations of sexual harassment. Trump's companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes, and on "at least three dozen" occasions the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has obtained tax liens against Trump properties for nonpayment of taxes.[1] On a number of occasions, Trump has threatened legal action but did not ultimately follow through.[5]

Of Trump's involvement in the lawsuits, his lawyer Alan Garten said in 2015 that this was "a natural part of doing business in [the United States]",[5][6] and in the real estate industry, litigation to enforce contracts and resolve business disputes is indeed common.[5] Trump has, however, been involved in far more litigation than fellow real-estate magnates; the USA Today analysis in 2016 found that Trump had been involved in legal disputes more than Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., Donald Bren, Stephen M. Ross, Sam Zell, and Larry Silverstein combined.[1]

The Trump lawsuits[5][6] have attracted criticism from Trump's opponents, who say that this is not a trait that conservatives should support.[5] James Copland, director of legal policy at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, states that "Trump clearly has an affinity for filing lawsuits, partly because he owns a lot of businesses" and has sometimes used litigation as a "bullying tactic".[5]

Although Trump has said that he "never" settles legal claims, Trump and his businesses have settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases (mostly involving personal injury claims arising from injuries at Trump properties), with settlements ranging as high as the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars[1] and recently as high as the tens of millions of dollars.[7]

Among the most well-known Trump legal cases was the Trump University litigation. Three legal actions were brought alleging fraud, one by the New York State Attorney General and the others by class action plaintiffs.[8] In November 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the litigation.[7]

Lawsuits 1970–1999

Trump initially came to public attention in 1973 when he was accused by the Justice Department of violations of the Fair Housing Act in the operation of 39 buildings. The Department of Justice said that black "testers" were sent to more than half a dozen buildings and were denied apartments, but a similar white tester would then be offered an apartment in the same building.[9] The government alleged that Trump's corporation quoted different rental terms and conditions to blacks and made false "no vacancy" statements to blacks for apartments they managed in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.[10]

Representing Trump, Roy Cohn filed a counter-suit against the government for $100 million, asserting that the charges were irresponsible and baseless.[9][11] A federal judge threw out the countersuit, calling it a waste of "time and paper".[12] Trump settled the charges out of court in 1975 without admitting guilt, saying he was satisfied that the agreement did not "compel the Trump organization to accept persons on welfare as tenants unless as qualified as any other tenant".[13]

Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, said that the housing case was "a classic example" of Trump being "a counterpuncher". Someone accuses Trump of doing something horrible, and he "goes back at them with all guns blazing.... And admits nothing." If Trump loses, he will "declare victory".[14]

The corporation was required to send a bi-weekly list of vacancies to the New York Urban League, a civil rights group, and give them priority for certain locations.[15] Several years later (in 1978) the Trump Organization again was in court for violating terms of the 1975 settlement; Trump denied the charges.[9][12][16]

In 1985, New York City brought a lawsuit against Donald Trump for allegedly using tactics to force out tenants of 100 Central Park South,[17] which he intended to demolish together with the building next door. After ten years in court, the two sides negotiated a deal allowing the building to stand as condominiums.[18]

In 1988, the Justice Department sued Donald Trump for violating procedures related to public notifications when buying voting stock in a company related to his attempted takeovers of Holiday Corporation and Bally Manufacturing Corporation in 1986. On April 5, 1988, Trump agreed to pay $750,000 to settle the civil penalties of the antitrust lawsuit.[19]

In late 1990, Donald Trump was sued for $2 million by a business analyst for defamation, and Trump settled out of court.[20] Briefly before Trump's Taj Mahal opened in April 1990, the analyst had said that the project would fail by the end of that year. Trump threatened to sue the analyst's firm unless the analyst recanted or was fired. The analyst refused to retract the statements, and his firm fired him for ostensibly unrelated reasons.[21] Trump Taj Mahal declared bankruptcy in November 1990, the first of several such bankruptcies.[22] After, the NYSE ordered the firm to compensate the analyst $750,000; the analyst did not release the details of his settlement with Donald Trump.[23]

In 1991, Donald Trump sued the manufacturers of a helicopter that crashed in 1989, killing three executives of his New Jersey hotel casino business.[24] The helicopter fell 2,800 feet after the main four-blade rotor and tail rotor broke off the craft, killing Jonathan Benanav, an executive of Trump Plaza, and two others: Mark Grossinger Etess, president of Trump Taj Mahal, and Stephen F. Hyde, chief executive of the Atlantic City casinos.[25][26][27] One of the defendants was owned by the Italian government, providing a basis for removing it to federal court, where the case was dismissed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the dismissal in 1992, and the Supreme Court denied Trump's petition to hear the case in the same year.[28]

Trump Plaza was fined $200,000 in 1991 by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for moving African American and female employees from craps tables in order to accommodate high roller Robert LiButti, a mob figure and alleged John Gotti associate, who was said to fly into fits of racist rage when he was on losing streaks.[29] There is no indication that Trump was ever questioned in that investigation, he was not held personally liable, and Trump denies even knowing what LiButti looked like.[29]

In 1991, one of Trump's casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was found guilty of circumventing state regulations about casino financing when Donald Trump's father bought $3.5 million in chips that he had no plans to gamble. Trump Castle was forced to pay a $30,000 fine under the settlement, according to New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director Jack Sweeney. Trump was not disciplined for the illegal advance on his inheritance, which was not confiscated.[30]

1992, Trump sued ex-wife Ivana Trump for not honoring a gag clause in their divorce agreement by disclosing facts about him in her best-selling book, Trump won the gag order.[31][32][33] The divorce was granted on grounds that Ivana claims Donald Trump's treatment of her was "cruel and inhuman treatment".[34][35] Years later, Ivana said that she and Donald "are the best of friends".[36]

In 1993, Donald Trump sued Jay Pritzker, a Chicago financier and Trump's business partner since 1979 on the Grand Hyatt hotel. Trump alleged that Pritzker overstated earnings in order to collect excessive management fees.[37] In 1994, Pritzker sued Trump for violating their agreement by, among other ways, failing to remain solvent.[38] The two parties ended the feud in 1995 in a sealed settlement, in which Trump retained some control of the hotel and Pritzker would receive reduced management fees and pay Trump's legal expenses.[39]

Vera Coking sued Trump and his demolition contractor for damage to her home during construction of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. In 1997, she dropped the suit against Trump and settled with his contractor for $90,000.[40] Coking had refused to sell her home to Trump and ultimately won a 1998 Supreme Court decision that prevented Atlantic City from using eminent domain to condemn her property.[41][42]

In April 1997, Jill Harth Houraney filed a $125,000,000 lawsuit against Trump for sexual harassment in 1993, claiming Trump "'groped' her under her dress and told her he wanted to make her his 'sex slave'"; and claimed that: "Trump repeatedly put his hands on her thighs and violated her physical and mental integrity. The lawsuit referred to the alleged acts as "attempted rape". Harth voluntarily withdrew the suit when her husband settled a parallel suit with Trump. Trump repeatedly states the allegations against him are not true. Trump called the allegations "meritless".[43][44] In July 2016, Harth made a demand that Trump apologize to her.[45][46] In an interview on WNYC radio on Thursday, August 11, 2016, Harth describes her experience with Trump. Harth claims she met Trump in 1992. Harth said Trump first sexually harassed her during their first meeting. Harth claims she was harassed over a "period of years", later being sexually assaulted at Trump's estate in Palm Beach, Florida. A 1996 deposition states that Harth claims Trump stared at her and asked her now ex-husband George Houraney if they were "sleeping together". In the deposition, Harth claims Trump groped her under a table during dinner one night. Harth states she declined being interviewed by all the major news outlets because she did not want to talk about the subject. Harth says she finds it "embarrassing" to be associated with Donald Trump. She also confirmed that as recently as a year ago she had thanked Trump for helping her professionally, expressed support for his presidential candidacy, and attended one of his rallies.[47] In a 2016 interview with Newsweek, Harth said that she was at a restaurant with Trump in December 1992, at a table with him and several other women. "I had a dress on, and I constantly had to lean to the left, into the other women, to get away from him. He had his hands right there." In her lawsuit she described him touching “my intimate private parts". Harth says she feels "vindicated" by the tape. A Trump campaign spokesperson told Newsweek that,"Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth. These 24-year-old allegations lack any merit or veracity as evidence by her repeated requests for employment, attempts to seek out Mr. Trump, and her support of Mr. Trump's candidacy."[48]

In the late 1990s, Donald Trump and rival Atlantic City casino owner Stephen Wynn engaged in an extended legal conflict during the planning phase of new casinos Wynn had proposed to build. Both owners filed lawsuits against one another and other parties, including the State of New Jersey, beginning with Wynn's antitrust accusation against Trump.[49][50] After two years in court, Wynn's Mirage casino sued Trump in 1999 alleging that his company had engaged in a conspiracy to harm Mirage and steal proprietary information, primarily lists of wealthy Korean gamblers. In response, Trump's attorneys claimed that Trump's private investigator dishonored his contract by working as a "double agent" for Stephen Wynn's Mirage casino by secretly taping conversations with Trump. All the cases were settled at the same time on the planned day of an evidentiary hearing in court in February 2000, which was never held.[51]

Lawsuits 2000–2009

In 2000, Donald Trump paid $250,000 to settle fines related to charges brought by New York State Lobbying Commission director David Grandeau. Trump was charged with circumventing state law to spend $150,000 lobbying against government approval of plans to construct an Indian-run casino in the Catskills, which would have diminished casino traffic to Trump's casinos in Atlantic City.[52][53]

From 2000 on, Trump tried to partner with a German venture in building a "Trump Tower Europe" in Germany. The company founded for this, "TD Trump Deutschland AG" was dissolved in 2003, several lawsuits following in the years thereafter.[54]

In 2001, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought a financial-reporting case against Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., alleging that the company had committed several "misleading statements in the company's third-quarter 1999 earnings release". Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. consented to the Commission's cease-and-desist order, said the culprit had been dismissed, and that Trump had personally been unaware of the matter.[55][56][57]

Trump sued Leona Helmsley,[58] and Helmsley counter-sued Trump[59] due to contentions regarding ownership and operation of the Empire State Building. In 2002, Trump announced that he and his Japanese business partners, were selling the Empire State Building to partners of his rival Leona Helmsley.[60][61]

In 2003, the city of Stuttgart denied TD Trump Deutschland AG, a Trump Organization subsidiary, the permission to build a planned tower due to questions over its financing. Trump Deutschland sued the city of Stuttgart, and lost. In 2004 Trump's German corporate partner brought suit against the Trump Organization for failure to pay back a EUR 200 million pre-payment as promised. In 2005, the German state attorney prosecuted Trump Deutschland and its partners for accounting fraud.[62][63][64]

In 2004, Donald Trump sued Richard T. Fields in Broward County Circuit Court (in Florida); Fields was once Trump's business partner in the casino business, but had recently become a successful casino developer in Florida apart from Trump. Fields counter-sued Trump in Florida court. Trump alleged that Fields misled other parties into believing he still consulted for Trump, and Fields alleged improprieties in Trump's business.[65] The two businessmen agreed in 2008 to drop the lawsuits when Fields agreed to buy Trump Marina in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for $316 million,[66] but the deal was unsettled again in 2009 because Trump resigned his leadership of Trump Entertainment after Fields lowered his bid.[67] Fields never bought the company, which went into bankruptcy about the same time and was sold for $38 million.[68][69] Trump's lawsuit was dismissed after a hearing in 2010.[70]

In 2004, the Trump Organization partnered with Bayrock Group on a $200 million hotel and condo project in Fort Lauderdale Beach, to be called Trump International Hotel & Tower. After proceeding for five years, real estate market devaluation stymied the project in 2009 and Trump dissolved his licensing deal, demanding that his name be removed from the building. Soon after this, the project defaulted on a $139 million loan in 2010.[71] Investors later sued the developers for fraud. Trump petitioned to have his name removed from the suit, saying he had only lent his name to the project. However his request was refused since he had participated in advertising for it.[72] The insolvent building project spawned over 10 lawsuits, some of which were still not settled in early 2016.[73]

In 2006, the Town of Palm Beach began fining Trump $250 per day for ordinance violations related to his erection of an 80-foot-tall (24 m) flagpole flying a 15 by 25 feet (4.6 by 7.6 m) American flag on his property. Trump sued the town for $25 million, saying that they abridged his free speech, also disputing an ordinance that local businesses be "town-serving". The two parties settled as part of a court-ordered mediation, in which Trump was required to donate $100,000 to veterans' charities. At the same time, the town ordinance was modified allowing Trump to enroll out-of-town members in his Mar-a-Lago social club.[74]

File:Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago 2016.jpg
Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago

After the 2008 housing-market collapse, Deutsche Bank attempted to collect $40 million that Donald Trump personally guaranteed against their $640 million loan for Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. Rather than paying the debt, Trump sued Deutsche Bank for $3 billion for undermining the project and damage to his reputation.[75] Deutsche Bank then filed suit to obtain the $40 million. The two parties settled in 2010 with Deutsche Bank extending the loan term by five years.[76]

In 2008, Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit for alleged fraud and civil rights violations[77] against the California city of Rancho Palos Verdes, over thwarted luxury home development and expansion plans upon part of a landslide-prone golf course in the area, which was purchased by Trump in 2002 for $27 million.[77] Trump had previously sued a local school district over land leased from them in the re-branded Trump National Golf Club, and had further angered some local residents by renaming a thoroughfare after himself.[77] The $100 million suit was ultimately withdrawn in 2012 with Trump and the city agreeing to modified geological surveys and permit extensions for some 20 proposed luxury homes (in addition to 36 homes previously approved).[78][79] Trump ultimately opted for a permanent conservation easement instead of expanded housing development on the course's driving range.[80]

In 2009, Donald Trump sued a law firm he had used, Morrison Cohen, for $5 million for mentioning his name and providing links to related news articles on its website. This lawsuit followed a lawsuit by Trump alleging overcharging by the law firm, and a countersuit by Morrison Cohen seeking unpaid legal fees.[81] The suit was dismissed in a 15-page ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten, who ruled that the links to news articles concerned "matters of public interest."[82]

In 2009, Trump was sued by investors who had made deposits for condos in the canceled Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico.[83] The investors said that Trump misrepresented his role in the project, stating after its failure that he had been little more than a spokesperson for the entire venture, disavowing any financial responsibility for the debacle.[84] Investors were informed that their investments would not be returned due to the cancellation of construction.[83] In 2013, Trump settled the lawsuit with more than one hundred prospective condo owners for an undisclosed amount.[85]

Lawsuits 2010–present

Construction and property law matters

In 2011, Donald Trump sued Scotland, alleging that it built the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm after assuring him it would not be built. He had recently built a golf course there and planned to build an adjacent hotel. Trump lost his suit, with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom unanimously ruling in favor of the Scottish government in 2015.[86][87]

In 2013, 87-year-old Jacqueline Goldberg alleged that Trump cheated her in a condominium sale by bait-and-switch when she was purchasing properties at the Trump International Hotel and Tower.[88]

In 2015, Trump initiated a $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County claiming that officials, in a "deliberate and malicious" act, pressured the FAA to direct air traffic to the Palm Beach International Airport over his Mar-a-Lago estate, because he said the airplanes damaged the building and disrupted its ambiance.[89] Trump had previously sued the county twice over airport noise; the first lawsuit, in 1995, ended with an agreement between Trump and the county; Trump's second lawsuit, in 2010, was dismissed.[89]

Trump is suing the town of Ossining, New York, over the property tax valuation on his 147-acre (59 ha) Trump National Golf Club Westchester, located in Briarcliff Manor's portion of the town, which Trump purchased for around $8 million at a foreclosure sale in the 1990s and to which he claimed, at the club's opening, to have added $45 million in facility improvements.[90] Although Trump stated in his 2015 FEC filing that the property was worth at least $50 million, his lawsuit seeks a $1.4 million valuation on the property, which includes a 75,000-square-foot clubhouse, five overnight suites, and permission to build 71 condominium units,[90] in an effort to shave $424,176 from his annual local property tax obligations.[91] Trump filed the action after separately being sued by Briarcliff Manor for "intentional and illegal modifications" to a drainage system that caused more than $238,000 in damage to the village's library, public pool, and park facilities during a 2011 storm.[91]

In October 2016, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Trump, together with two principals of a connected developer, could be sued for various claims, including oppression, collusion and breach of fiduciary duties, in relation to his role in the marketing of units in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto, Canada.[92] A subsequent application for leave to appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2017.[93] Also in October 2016, JCF Capital ULC (a private firm that had bought the construction loan on the building) announced that it was seeking court approval under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to have the building sold in order to recoup its debt, which then totaled $301 million.[94] The court allowed for its auction[95] which took place in March 2017, but no bidders, apart from one stalking horse offer, took part.[96]

Defamation matters

Also in 2011, an appellate court upheld a New Jersey Superior Court judge's decision dismissing Trump's $5 billion defamation lawsuit against author Timothy L. O'Brien, who had reported in his book, TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald (2005), that Trump's true net worth was really between $150 and $250 million. Trump had reportedly told O'Brien he was worth billions and, in 2005, had publicly stated such.[97] Trump said that the author's alleged underestimation of his net worth was motivated by malice and had cost him business deals and damage to his reputation.[98] The appellate court, however, ruled against Trump, citing the consistency of O'Brien's three confidential sources.[99]

In 2013 Trump sued comedian Bill Maher for $5 million for breach of contract.[100] Maher had appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and had offered to pay $5 million to a charity if Trump produced his birth certificate to prove that Trump's mother had not mated with an orangutan. This was said by Maher in response to Trump having previously challenged Obama to produce his birth certificate, and offering $5 million payable to a charity of Obama's choice, if Obama produced his college applications, transcripts, and passport records.[101][102] Trump produced his birth certificate and filed a lawsuit after Maher was not forthcoming, claiming that Maher's $5 million offer was legally binding. "I don't think he was joking," Trump said. "He said it with venom."[101] Trump withdrew his lawsuit against the comedian after eight weeks.[103]

In 2014, the former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin ultimately settled a $5 million arbitration judgment against her, having been sued by Trump after alleging that the Miss USA 2012 pageant results were rigged. Monnin wrote on her Facebook page that another contestant told her during a rehearsal that she had seen a list of the top five finalists, and when those names were called in their precise order, Monnin realized the pageant election process was suspect, compelling Monnin to resign her Miss Pennsylvania title. The Trump Organization's lawyer said that Monnin's allegations had cost the pageant a lucrative British Petroleum sponsorship deal and threatened to discourage women from entering Miss USA contests in the future.[104] According to Monnin, testimony from the Miss Universe Organization and Ernst & Young revealed that the top 15 finalists were selected by pageant directors regardless of preliminary judges' scores.[105] As part of the settlement, Monnin was not required to retract her original statements.[104]

On December 21, 2016, Trump sued author Jacob M. Appel over his depiction in the novel, The Mask of Sanity.[106]

On January 17, 2017, Summer Zervos, represented by attorney Gloria Allred, filed a defamation suit against President-Elect Donald Trump for claiming that she had lied in her public sexual assault allegations against him.[107]

Trump University litigation

In 2013, in a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Trump was accused of defrauding more than 5,000 people of $40 million for the opportunity to learn Trump's real estate investment techniques in a for-profit training program, Trump University, which operated from 2005 to 2011.[108][109][110] Trump ultimately stopped using the term "University" following a 2010 order from New York regulators, who called Trump's use of the word "misleading and even illegal"; the state had previously warned Trump in 2005 to drop the term or not offer seminars in New York.[111][112][113] Although Trump has claimed a 98% approval rating on course evaluations, former students recounted high-pressure tactics from instructors seeking the highest possible ratings, including threats of withholding graduation certificates,[114] and more than 2,000 students had sought and received course refunds before the end of their paid seminars.[114]

In a separate class action civil suit against Trump University in mid-February 2014, a San Diego federal judge allowed claimants in California, Florida, and New York to proceed;[115] a Trump counterclaim, alleging that the state Attorney General's investigation was accompanied by a campaign donation shakedown, was investigated by a New York ethics board and dismissed in August 2015.[116] Trump filed a $1 million defamation suit against former Trump University student Tarla Makaeff, who had spent about $37,000 on seminars, after she joined the class action lawsuit and publicized her classroom experiences on social media.[84] Trump University was later ordered by a U.S. District Judge in April 2015 to pay Makaeff and her lawyers $798,774.24 in legal fees and costs.[84][117]

Breach of contract matters

In 2014, model Alexia Palmer filed a civil suit against Trump Model Management for promising a $75,000 annual salary but paying only $3,380.75 for three years' work. Palmer, who came to the US at age 17 from Jamaica under the H-1B visa program in 2011,[118] claimed to be owed more than $200,000. Palmer contended that Trump Model Management charged, in addition to a management fee, "obscure expenses" from postage to limousine rides that consumed the remainder of her compensation. Palmer alleged that Trump Model Management promised to withhold only 20% of her net pay as agency expenses, but after charging her for those "obscure expenses", ended up taking 80%.[119] Trump attorney Alan Garten claimed the lawsuit is "bogus and completely frivolous".[120][121] Palmer filed a class-action lawsuit against the modeling agency with similar allegations.[122] The case was dismissed from U.S. federal court in March 2016, in part because Palmer's immigration status, via H1-B visa sponsored by Trump, required labor complaints to be filed through a separate process.[119][123]

In 2015, Trump sued Univision, demanding $500 million for breach of contract and defamation when they dropped their planned broadcast of the Miss USA pageant. The network said that the decision was made because of Trump's "insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants".[124] Trump settled the lawsuit with Univision CEO Randy Falco out of court.[125]

In July 2015, Trump filed a $10 million lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court for breach of contract against Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés, claiming that he backed out of a deal to open the flagship restaurant at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.[126][127] Andrés replied that Trump's lawsuit was "both unsurprising and without merit"[128] and filed an $8 million counterclaim against a Trump Organization subsidiary.[127][129]

Also in July 2015, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian also withdrew from the Washington, D.C., project with Andrés in the wake of Trump's comments on Mexican illegal immigrants, and is expected to lose his own $500,000 restaurant lease deposit as a result.[128] Trump denounced and then sued Zakarian in August 2015 for a sum "in excess of $10 million" for lost rent and other damages.[130] Trump's lawsuit called Zakarian's offense at his remarks "curious in light of the fact that Mr. Trump's publicly shared views on immigration have remained consistent for many years, and Mr. Trump's willingness to frankly share his opinions is widely known".[130][131]

Disputes with both chefs were eventually settled in April 2017.[132]

In 2015, restaurant workers at Trump SoHo filed a lawsuit that from 2009 to at least the time of the filing, gratuities added to customers' checks were illegally withheld from employees. The Trump Organization has responded that the dispute is between the employees and their employer, a third-party contractor. Donald Trump has been scheduled to testify in court on September 1, 2016.[133][134]

Assault claims

In September 2015, five men who had demonstrated outside of a Trump presidential campaign event at Trump Tower in New York City sued Donald Trump, alleging that Trump's security staff punched one of them. They also allege that Trump's security guards had been advised by city police that they were permitted to protest there. Several people videotaped the incident.[135][136]

In June 2015, the Culinary Workers Union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that the owners of Trump Hotel Las Vegas hotel "violated the federally protected rights of workers to participate in union activities" and engaged in "incidents of alleged physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats by management".[137] In October 2015, the Trump Ruffin Commercial and Trump Ruffin Tower I, the owners of Trump Hotel Las Vegas, sued the Culinary Workers Union and another union, alleging that they had knowingly distributed flyers that falsely stated that Donald Trump had stayed at a rival unionized hotel, rather than his own non-unionized hotel, during a trip to Las Vegas.[5][137]

Poll watching controversy

On October 31, 2016, a New Jersey federal judge, John Michael Vazquez, ordered the Republican National Committee (RNC) to hand over all communications with the Trump campaign related to poll watching and voter fraud. He asked for testimony and documents relating to Kellyanne Conway, RNC officials Ronna Romney McDaniel of Michigan, and Rob Gleason from Pennsylvania.[138] It is claimed Gleason, McDaniel, and Roger Stone recruited poll watchers to check for voter fraud. The state Democratic parties of Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Ohio filed lawsuits against Trump for encouraging illegal voter intimidation. The states' Democratic parties are also suing their respective Republican party counterparts, along with Roger Stone, who is allegedly recruiting poll watchers and organizing ballot security" efforts in a number of states. Stone runs the group "Stop the Steal." It claims Trump supporters yelled at voters outside Las Vegas are polling places when they said they weren't voting for the Republican nominee, and that Stone is asking supporters to conduct an illegitimate "exit polling" initiative aimed at intimidating voters of color.

Pat McDonald, the director of Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Ohio, reported that "Trump supporters have already visited the county elections board identifying themselves as poll observers, even though they did not appear to be credentialed as poll observers as required under Ohio law." Election officials have expressed concern about "instability on Election Day," one lawsuit claims, and discussed the possibility of bringing police to polling sites to address conflicts. In Clark County of Nevada, a lawsuit claims: "A Trump supporter harassed and intimidated multiple voters outside of the Albertson's supermarket early voting location on Lake Mead Boulevard, repeatedly asking voters for whom they were voting, and then yelling at them belligerently and attempting to keep them from entering the voting location when they stated they were not voting for Donald Trump." When poll staffers told the Trump supporters to stop harassing voters, "the Trump supporter told poll workers that he had 'a right to say anything he wanted to the voters.'" Poll staffers called police, and the Trump supporter left. The lawsuit also claims similar incidents took place in neighboring Nye County as well. In Pennsylvania, Murrysville City Councilman Josh Lorenz supposedly posted instructions for the way Clinton supporters could vote online, even though there is no online voting in Pennsylvania. Eight registered electors, mostly from the Philadelphia area, challenged the portion of the state Election Code that prevents poll watchers from observing elections outside of the counties where they live.[139][140][141]

On November 8, 2016, police in Jupiter, Florida say a Donald Trump supporter pepper sprayed a Hillary Clinton supporter at the polls. The Clinton supporter claims she was pepper sprayed after being knocked to the ground. The Trump supporter faces charges of assault and battery.[142] In Pompano Beach, Florida, police asked two poll watchers to leave a polling site. Two precinct clerks were also fired for not adhering to policy and training. No arrests were made. No other incidents were reported in South Florida.[143][144]

Nevada early voting Latino turnout controversy

On November 8, 2016, Trump filed a lawsuit claiming early voting polling places in Clark County, Nevada, were kept open too late. These precincts had high turnout of Latino voters. Nevada state law explicitly states that polls are to stay open to accommodate eligible voters in line at closing time. Hillary Clinton campaign advisor Neera Tanden says the Trump campaign is trying to suppress Latino voter turnout. A political analyst from Nevada, Jon Ralston tweeted that the Trump lawsuit is "insane" in a state that clearly allows the polls to remains open until everyone in line has voted. Former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, posted the statute that states "voting must continue until those voters have voted". Miller said: "If there are people in line waiting to vote at 7 pm, voting must continue until everyone votes.... We still live in America, right?"[145]

A Nevada judge denied Trump's request to separate early voting ballots. Judge Gloria Sturman, of the District Court for Clark County Nevada, ruled that County Registrar of Voters Joe P. Gloria was already obligated by state law to maintain the records that the Trump campaign is seeking. Sturman said: "That is offensive to me because it seems to go against the very principle that a vote is secret."[146][147] Diana Orrock, the Republican National Committeewoman for Nevada and a vocal Trump ally, said she was unaware of the lawsuit before Politico contacted her. "I know that the [Clark County] registrar was on TV this morning saying that anybody who's in line was allowed to participate in the voting process until all of them came through," she said. "If that's what they did, I don't have a problem with that ... I don't know that filing a suit's going to accomplish anything." Orrock doubts the lawsuit will have any impact.[148]

Lawsuit for inciting violence at March 2016 campaign rally

During a campaign rally on March 1, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump repeatedly said “get 'em out of here” while pointing at anti-Trump protesters as they were forcibly escorted out by his supporters. Three protesters say they were were repeatedly shoved and punched while Trump pointed at them from the podium, citing widely-shared video evidence of the events. They also cited previous statements by Trump about paying the legal bills of supporters who got violent, or suggesting a demonstrator deserved to be "roughed up.".[149][150][151][152]

The lawsuit accuses Donald Trump of inciting violence against protesters in Louisville, Kentucky. The plaintiffs are Kashiya Nwanguma (21), Molly Shah (36) and Henry Brousseau (17). The suit is against Trump, his campaign, and three Trump supporters (Matthew Heimbach, Alvin Bamberger and an unnamed defendant). One defendant, Bamburger, who was wearing a Veteran's uniform in the video, apologized to the Korean War Veterans Association immediately after the event, writing that he "physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit" after "Trump kept saying 'get them out, get them out."[149]

Trump's attorneys requested to get the case dismissed, arguing he was protected by free speech laws, and wasn't trying to get his supporters to resort to violence.[151][153] They also stated that Trump had no duty to the protesters, and they had assumed the personal risk of injury by deciding to protest at the rally.[149]

On Friday, April 1, 2017, Judge David J. Hale in Louisville ruled against the dismissal of a lawsuit, stating there was ample evidence to support that the injuries of the protesters were a “direct and proximate result” of Trump's words and actions. Hale wrote, “It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” and, "It was an order, an instruction, a command." Hale wrote that the Supreme Court has ruled out some protections for free speech when used to incite violence. [154]

Defendant Heimbach requested to dismiss the discussion in the lawsuit about his association with a white nationalist group, and also requested to dismiss discussion of statements he made about how a President Trump would advance the interests of the group. The request was declined, with the judge saying the information could be important for determining punitive damages because they add context.[149]

Hale also declined to remove the allegation that Plaintiff Nwanguma, who is African-American, was victim to ethnic, racial and sexist slurs at the rally from the crowd. The judge stated that this context may support claims by the plaintiffs' of incitement and negligence by Trump and the Trump campaign. The judge wrote, "While the words themselves are repulsive, they are relevant to show the atmosphere in which the alleged events occurred."[149]

The judge stated that all people have a duty to use care to prevent foreseeable injury. "In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that their harm was foreseeable and that the Trump Defendants had a duty to prevent it." The case was referred a federal magistrate, Judge H. Brent Brennenstuhl, who will handle preliminary litigation, discovery and settlement efforts.[149][not in citation given]

Allegations of business links to organized crime

Journalists David Cay Johnston and Wayne Barrett, the latter of whom wrote an unauthorized 1992 Trump biography, have claimed that Trump and his companies did business with New York and Philadelphia families linked to the Italian-American Mafia.[155][156] A reporter for The Washington Post writes, "he was never accused of illegality, and observers of the time say that working with the mob-related figures and politicos came with the territory."[157]

Trump helped a financier for the Scarfo family get a casino license, and constructed a casino using firms controlled by Nicodemo Scarfo.[158] Trump also bought real estate from Philadelphia crime family member Salvatore Testa, and bought concrete from companies associated with the Genovese crime family and the Gambino crime family.[155][156][157] Trump Plaza paid a $450,000 fine leveled by the Casino Gaming Commission for giving $1.6 million in rare automobiles to Robert LiButti, the acquaintance of John Gotti already mentioned.[29]

Starting in 2003, the Trump Organization worked with Felix Sater, who had a 1998 racketeering conviction for a $40 million Mafia-linked stock fraud scheme, and who had then become an informant against the mafia.[159] Trump's attorney has said that Sater worked with Trump scouting real estate opportunities, but was never formally employed.[160]

Use of bankruptcy laws

Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but hotel and casino businesses of his have been declared bankrupt four times between 1991 and 2009 to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds.[161][162] Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded. Trump was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, "I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they're very good for me" as a tool for trimming debt.[81][163]

According to a report by Forbes in 2011, the four bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City: Trump's Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).[164][165] Trump said "I've used the laws of this country to pare debt.... We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on The Apprentice. It's not personal. It's just business."[166] He indicated that many "great entrepreneurs" do the same.[164]

1991

In 1991, Trump Taj Mahal was unable to service its debt and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[166] Forbes indicated that this first bankruptcy was the only one where Trump's personal financial resources were involved. Time, however, maintains that $72 million of his personal money was also involved in a later 2004 bankruptcy.[167]

1992

On November 2, 1992, the Trump Plaza Hotel filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Trump lost his 49 percent stake in the luxury hotel to Citibank and five other lenders.[168] In return Trump received more favorable terms on the remaining $550+ million owed to the lenders, and retain his position as chief executive, though he would not be paid and would not have a role in day-to-day operations.[169]

1994

By 1994, Trump had eliminated a large portion of his $900 million personal debt through sales of his Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza assets,[170] and significantly reduced his nearly $3.5 billion in business debt. Although he lost the Trump Princess yacht and the Trump Shuttle (which he had bought in 1989), he did retain Trump Tower in New York City and control of three casinos in Atlantic City, including Trump's Castle. Trump sold his ownership of West Side Yards (now Riverside South, Manhattan) to Chinese developers including Hong Kong's New World Development, receiving a premium price in exchange for the use and display of the name "Trump" on the buildings.[171]

2004

Donald Trump's third corporate bankruptcy was on October 21, 2004, involving Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, the publicly-traded holding company for his three Atlantic City casinos and some others.[172] Trump lost over half of his 56% ownership and gave bondholders stock in exchange for surrendering part of the debt. No longer CEO, Trump retained a role as chairman of the board. In May 2005[173] the company emerged from bankruptcy as Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings.[174] In his 2007 book, Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life, Trump wrote: "I figured it was the bank's problem, not mine. What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, 'I told you you shouldn't have loaned me that money. I told you the goddamn deal was no good.'"[175]

2009

Trump's fourth corporate bankruptcy occurred in 2009, when Trump and his daughter Ivanka resigned from the board of Trump Entertainment Resorts; four days later the company, which owed investors $1.74 billion against its $2.06 billion of assets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At that time, Trump Entertainment Resorts had three properties in Atlantic City: Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (closed in 2014), and Trump Marina (formerly Trump's Castle, sold in 2011). Trump and some investors bought the company back that same year for $225 million. As part of the agreement, Trump withdrew a $100 million lawsuit he had filed against the casino's owners alleging damage to the Trump brand. Trump re-negotiated the debt, reducing by over $1 billion the repayments required to bondholders.[176][177]

In 2014, Trump sued his former company to remove his name from the buildings since he no longer ran the company, having no more than a 10% stake; he lost the suit.[178] Trump Entertainment Resorts filed again for bankruptcy in 2014[179] and was purchased by billionaire philanthropist Carl Icahn in 2016, who acquired Trump Taj Mahal in the deal.[180]

Campaign contributions

According to a New York state report, Trump circumvented corporate and personal campaign donation limits in the 1980s – although he did not break any laws – by donating money to candidates from 18 different business subsidiaries, rather than giving primarily in his own name.[157][181] Trump told investigators he did so on the advice of his lawyers. He also said the contributions were not to curry favor with business-friendly candidates, but simply to satisfy requests from friends.[157][182]

Donald J. Trump Foundation

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, media began reporting in detail on how the Donald J. Trump Foundation was funded and how Donald Trump used its funds. The Washington Post in particular reported several cases of possible mis-use, self-dealing and possible tax evasion.[18] [19] [20]

Regarding the various irregularities in the Trump Foundation, former head of the Internal Revenue Service's Office of Exempt Organizations Division Marc Owens told The Washington Post: "This is so bizarre, this laundry list of issues.... It's the first time I've ever seen this, and I've been doing this for 25 years in the IRS, and 40 years total.[21] When interviewed for the Post's article, Trump spokesperson Boris Epshtein said that Trump did not knowingly violate any tax laws.[18]

The office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigated the foundation "to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York."[22]

Controversy over tax returns

In October 2016, The New York Times published some tax documents from 1995. These documents indicate that Trump might have evaded paying taxes on as much as 916 million dollars in income at one time. Trump likely gave some of his creditors shares of his failing businesses to avoid taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars he was given in debt relief, which is illegal. Legal scholar Edward Kleinbard of the University of Southern California believes Trump forged tax documents. Trump claimed on his tax returns that he lost money, but did not recognize it in the form of canceled debts. He likely avoided paying 425 million dollars in taxes, says Steven M. Rosenthal, an attorney at the Tax Policy Center. Rosenthal claims he "borrowed other people's money and spent it in spectacular fashion." Trump might have performed a stock-for-debt swap. This would have allowed Trump to avoid paying income taxes for at least 18 years. An audit of Trump's tax returns for 2002 through 2008 was "closed administratively by agreement with the I.R.S. without assessment or payment, on a net basis, of any deficiency." Tax attorneys believe the government may have reduced what Trump was able to claim as a loss without requiring him to pay any additional taxes.[183][184] It is unknown whether the I.R.S. challenged Trump's use of the swaps because he has not released his tax returns. Trump's lawyers advised against Trump refusing to release his tax returns because they believe that it is suspicious.[185]

Marc E. Kasowitz, name partner of the Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman firm, wrote a letter threatening The New York Times over publication of the 1995 documents. Kasowitz's action drew attention to the fact that the biglaw firm had done extensive legal work for Donald Trump and his businesses since at least 2001 including also bankrupt casino restructuring.[186] In early 2017, firm member and former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman introduced Pres.-elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee.[187]

Destruction of documents

In June 2016, a USA Today article reported that Donald Trump and his companies have been deleting emails and other documents on a large scale,[188] including evidence in lawsuits, sometimes in defiance of court orders and under subpoena since as early as 1973.[189][190][191] In October 2016, Kurt Eichenwald published new research findings in Newsweek. The findings were first published by Paul Singer[192] on June 13, 2016[193] and gained larger attention[194][195] after a new report in Newsweek on October 31, 2016. According to Newsweek, Trump and his companies "hid or destroyed thousands of documents" involving several court cases from as early as 1973.

"Over the course of decades, Donald Trump's companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders.... In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records."

In 1973 Trump, his father and their company were in court for civil charges for refusing to rent apartments to African Americans. After their lawyers had delayed court requests for documents for several months, Trump, then being under subpoena, said his company had destroyed corporate records of the past six months "for saving space". In a court case beginning in 2005 against Power Plant Entertainment, LLC, an affiliate of real estate developer Cordish Cos., it was revealed that Trump's companies had deleted the data requested by court.[196] Cordish Cos. had built two American Indian[197] casinos in Florida under the Hard Rock brand and Donald Trump accused them of cheating him out of that deal. Nonetheless, Trump's lawyers had refused to instruct workers to keep all records related to the case during litigation.[189] Trump had established a procedure to delete all data from their employees' computers every year at least since 2003,[194] despite knowing at least since 2001 that he might want to file a lawsuit. Even after the lawsuit was filed, Trump Hotels disposed of a computer of a key witness without having made a backup of the data. A former general counsel of the Trump casino unit confirmed that all data was deleted from nearly all companies' computers annually. Trump and his lawyers claimed they were not keeping records and digital data although it was revealed that Trump had launched his own high-speed internet provider in 1998 and an IBM Domino server had been installed for emails and digital files in 1999.[189][195]

See also

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