Donald Trump as Litigation Bully

Do you need another reason — besides the tariff talk, the eminent domain trail, the inane birtherism, and, well, the hundred other reasons — to hope the presidential campaign of Donald Trump goes nowhere? Well, here’s another reason: he’s an aggressive, some might say abusive, user of lawsuits and threats of lawsuits against those who apply unwanted scrutiny to his business operations.

Twenty years ago, analyst Marvin Roffman of the Philadelphia investment firm of Janney Montgomery Scott predicted that Trump’s then-new Taj Mahal casino would have difficulty recouping its huge investment, in part because of its troubled Atlantic City location. As financial predictions go, Roffman’s was a very shrewd one, borne out by the later restructuring of the casino’s finances, which was costly for bondholders. At the time, however, Trump threatened the Janney firm in no uncertain terms: “I am now planning to institute a major lawsuit against your firm unless Mr. Roffman makes a public apology or is dismissed.” No profile in courage, the Janney firm proceeded to fire Mr. Roffman.

More recently, Trump pursued New York Times reporter Tim O’Brien and Warner Books through extensive defamation litigation (eventually dismissed) over O’Brien’s 2005 book TrumpNation, which placed a much lower valuation on the net worth of Trump’s empire than Trump thought proper or accurate.

There are words that come to mind to describe wealthy people who repeatedly use lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits to shut up or extract apologies from people they think have criticized them, and one of those words is “bully.” Why one would seek out that sort of character trait in a candidate for higher office is anything but clear.