Trump Faces a Record Amount of Lawsuits for a President
In a mere two-week period, Trump faces a slew of lawsuits that already amount to 10 times the average of the three presidents who preceded him. Over 50 lawsuits have been filed and, at the rate he’s going, it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon. Plaintiffs from 17 different states include religious groups, state attorneys general, doctors, professors, students, refugees seeking help, and Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. military. While most lawsuits are in reference to Trump’s immigration ban arguing civil rights violations, the President is also facing a financial conflict of interest suit and a lawsuit regarding federal funding.
Travel & Refugee Ban
Civil rights cases starting flying out of the wood works once Trump signed his executive order restricting travel. The immigration ban not only restricts access into the United States for those from select black-listed countries, but it halts entrance for refugees seeking political asylum. Although a federal judge has temporarily blocked the executive order from taking effect, Trump has appealed the lawsuit. Here’s a closer look at what the executive order will do if Trump prevails his appeal:
- Suspend the entire U.S. refugee admissions system for at least 120 days.
- Suspend the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.
- Ban entry from 7 majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for at least 90 days. This includes dual-nationals that hold passports from other countries as well.
- Prioritize refugee claims on the basis of religion, with a strong implication that non-Muslim religions would get preference.
- Lower the total number of refugees to be accepted in 2017 from any country.
The lawsuits allege violations of the 1st, 5th and 14th Amendments, citing religious inequality, due process and equal protection violations, denials of asylum, as well as discriminatory visa processing practices. Here’s a closer look at the expanding list of who’s suing Trump based on this executive order:
- Washington state has brought suit on a national level and claims the ban violates both the 1st Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The state of Minnesota joined in on the lawsuit, as well as 16 other states who have joined as friends of the court to argue against the ban. At least 127 tech companies have also filed briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in opposition to the ban.
- The ACLU brought multiple lawsuits by different plaintiffs arguing the ban discriminates against Muslims. Among the plaintiffs are two Iranian national University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth associate professors were detained while returning from an engineering conference and an Iraqi soldier (with a valid visa) was detained in New York while trying to join his family.
- The Council on American Islamic Relations also brought suit alleging the ban discriminates against Muslims and is unconstitutional on 1st Amendment grounds because it disfavors groups based on their religious faith.
Conflicts of Interest
We’ve been hearing about the numerous ways Trump’s business dealings present conflict of interest issues since his election. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) brought a lawsuit against Trump alleging he violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which basically says those holding office can’t profit from their power in office.
CREW’s lawsuit alleges because of the payments Trump receives from foreign organizations as through his many businesses, he’s profiting from his presidency. The argument rests on the notion that these profits limit his ability as President to make unbiased decisions for the benefit of the United States over the betterment of himself. Although, there’s a good argument CREW doesn’t have standing to win their case, it doesn’t negate the legitimate conflicts of interest.
Withholding Federal Funding
Cracking down on sanctuary cities is a campaign threat Trump followed through on. In addition to his immigration ban, Trump issued an executive order that would cut federal funding from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. San Francisco, a sanctuary city, has taken a stance and brought a lawsuit arguing the order violates the 10th Amendment. While the federal government can put conditions on the money they give out, the conditions cannot be coercive, which gives San Francisco a strong argument.
What Happens When a President is Sued?
Qualified immunity can be tricky. On a general level, public officials are protected from lawsuits alleging they violated a plaintiff’s rights. Exceptions come into play when there’s an allegation that the official violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional right. If cases were brought against a president for actions not related to their official capacity, the case would most likely be postponed until their term is over.
There are numerous lawsuits pending against Trump that were filed before his inauguration and don’t relate to his presidency. The fraud lawsuit regarding Trump University was settled, but most of the other cases will resume once Trump’s time in office is over. All of the cases filed within the past couple of weeks relate to Trump’s actions as President and pose constitutional violations, so they’ll be able to move forward through the judicial process.