The Downside of Being POTUS

David Frum writes,

Back when he was a private businessman, Trump learned how to use law as a weapon. The lesson he took from that is that if your pockets are deep enough—and your conscience dull enough—it doesn’t matter that you are wrong. The other party will go broke before you will lose.

USA Today tallied the heavy-handed Trump litigation strategy back in June 2016. Over three decades, Trump fought 3,500 lawsuits—and faced 200 mechanic’s liens—mostly arising from disputes over unpaid bills. His strategy was to contest everything, and never quit: “The Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.”

As president, however—and especially as a historically unpopular president—Trump has abruptly discovered that his old techniques no longer work. Worse: The old techniques now work against him.

The new bottom line: If you are famous enough—and disliked enough—it doesn’t matter whether you are right. The other party will become world-famous and super-wealthy before you can win.

I have looked and looked for an example of a sitting president suing anybody. It doesn’t seem ever to have happened.

I didn’t watch the Stormy Daniels interview, but from what I read she was very credible. Frum doesn’t address her allegation that she was threatened; he thinks she is entirely motivated by money. Whatever Daniels is about, however, Frum is right that Trump has lost part of his leverage. Further, any public official — especially a president — forfeits most rights to sue for defamation that a private citizen enjoys.

Trump is too thick to realize this, and his couple of third-string lawyers don’t seem all that sharp, either.

Greg Sargent wrote today,

President Trump has boundless faith in his ability to survive any financial, political, legal or public relations mess, by resorting to what philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously described as “bulls–––.” Time and again over the years, he has fallen back on his trademark tactics: bluffing with abandon; suing to overwhelm his antagonists with legal bills; fighting back as hard as possible, solely to dissuade future foes; flooding the media zone with confusion-sowing falsehoods; and, above all, never admitting to error, wrongdoing or deliberate lying.

But now, with Stormy Daniels speaking out about Trump — even as Trump’s legal team is falling apart, just as the Mueller probe is set to hit its climax — it’s hard to escape the sense that Trump’s titanic talent for bulls––––ing may be faltering in the face of the crush of events he now faces.

He doesn’t seem to have appreciated the fact that he’s lived his life as a cartoon character on the edges of popular culture, where he wasn’t under that much scrutiny. Now he’s the center of the world’s attention. And also the attention of Bob Mueller.

Trump continues to approach the Mueller probe as a P.R. problem — i.e., one that he and his allies can bluster their way out of in conventional Trumpian fashion — rather than as something potentially a lot worse. Remember, this comes just as Trump and what’s left of his legal team are trying to decide whether Trump should sit for an interview with Mueller. Trump has repeatedly said he relishes facing Mueller, and the lawyer advising caution — John Dowd — is now gone.  Trump’s instinct to bluff and bluster his way through the Mueller probe is more likely to go unchecked — even as he is less likely to fully prepare for the very real legal perils an interview will pose.

In the words of the formidable Fran Lebowitz, “Everyone says he is crazy – which maybe he is – but the scarier thing about him is that he is stupid. You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump. You just don’t.” If he is ever interviewed by Mueller, there will be no contest. Trump won’t be prepared. Trump won’t be able to bluff or bluster. Mueller will own his ass.

See also Jennifer Rubin, “There’s No Plan.”