WASHINGTON -- “So funny,” President Donald Trump remarked of the Democratic National Committee’s lawsuit against the Trump campaign, the Russian government and WikiLeaks.
Almost as funny as when Trump sued Palm Beach County, Florida, because of the “malicious” jet noise above Mar-a-Lago.
Or when Trump sued Bill Maher after the comedian challenged Trump to prove he was not the spawn of an orangutan.
Or the time Trump sued the Chicago Tribune for $500 million because its architecture critic said Trump’s idea for the world’s tallest tower was silly.
Or when Trump sued neighbors of the Trump National Doral Miami for vandalizing palm trees, or when he sued the town of Palm Beach because it denied him an 80-foot flagpole. Trump sued New York, he sued New Jersey, he sued Scotland and he sued a former Miss Pennsylvania. He sued the Pequot Indians. He sued two business executives for using the name “Trump,” even though their surname was also Trump.
When he ran for president, he had been involved in some 4,000 lawsuits, a USA Today tally found, about 40 percent filed by Trump and his businesses. He brought the practice with him into politics, threatening to sue, or actually suing: Sen. Ted Cruz (”for not being a natural born citizen”), Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Univision, the publisher of “Fire and Fury,” the Club for Growth, the Culinary Workers Union, the Republican Party, restaurants that pulled out of Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Associated Press, his former ghostwriter, NBC, ABC and women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Now Trump’s administration is suing California to stop its “sanctuary cities” policy, and to stop it from buying federal land that Trump wants to privatize.
Litigiousness is contagious. In the early months of his presidency, Trump was sued nearly three times as often as his three immediate predecessors -- combined -- at the same point, the Boston Globe found. States and cities have sued Trump over sanctuaries, the travel ban, “dreamers” and a citizenship question on the census. Two hundred congressional Democrats joined states in suing over Trump’s “emoluments.” Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI director, is reportedly preparing to sue Trump for defamation.
Sometimes lawsuits are the only recourse in a broken political system. The Supreme Court is looking at various lawsuits over partisan redistricting. The president’s election-fraud panel fell apart after it was sued by one of its own members.
But others in the political realm are suing each other as casually as they issue news releases. It is no longer accurate to say, as John Adams once did, that we are a nation of laws and not of men. We are now a nation of lawsuits -- thanks in part to the president, his lawyers and, yes, his lawyers’ lawyers.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, filed lawsuits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the Trump-Russia dossier. But he dropped those cases last week and tried to delay action in another lawsuit against him by adult-film actress Stormy Daniels -- so Cohen could focus on his other legal troubles involving federal prosecutors probing possible financial crimes.
But three Russians continue to sue Fusion GPS over the dossier, and one of them is the father-in-law of the first person to be sentenced as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into Russia and the Trump administration. Among the former Trump advisers Mueller has charged is former campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- who in turn sued Mueller and the Justice Department.
Trump himself has threatened to see the author of the Russia dossier in court. And last week he promised a countersuit against the DNC. But the docket is crowded, so Trump might want to try another venue -- such as Panama, where the Trump Organization said it would sue a hotel that ditched the Trump name.
Though filing lawsuits to fight political battles is nothing new, Trump wouldn’t be wrong to think he is being hit with more than usual. His opponents have filed scores of suits on everything from transgender rights to presidential records.
But the president is in an awkward position to complain about excessive litigation, having taken legal action against an author who claimed Trump overstated his wealth, Deutsche Bank, Ivana Trump, Merv Griffin, a Trump University student and a former campaign aide -- and having threatened legal action against Lawrence O’Donnell, Rosie O’Donnell, Harry Reid, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Tom Arnold, an anti-Trump T-shirt maker, the United States Golf Association, and the 92-year-old mother of a Scottish fisherman.
Now the DNC is using the same tactics Trump popularized. There’s a nonlegal term for this: rough justice.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.