Rudy Giuliani told a national television audience this week that he'd consider filing a lawsuit against members of Congress for daring to investigate Donald Trump's scandals. The whole pitch was bizarre, but the former mayor apparently believes the courts might help shield the president from congressional oversight, Constitution be damned.
As foolish as this sounded, Giuliani's friend in the Oval Office has some ridiculous litigation of his own in mind. Consider Trump's remarks yesterday during a White House press conference alongside Sauli Niinisto, the president of Finland.
"And just so you know, we've been investigating, on a personal basis -- through Rudy and others, lawyers -- corruption in the 2016 election. We've been investigating corruption, because I probably will -- I was going to definitely -- but I probably will be bringing a lot of litigation against a lot of people having to do with the corrupt investigation, having to do with the 2016 election."And I have every right to do that.... I've been talking about it from the standpoint of bringing a major lawsuit, and I've been talking about it for a long time."
So let me see if I have this straight. The sitting American president and his strange personal lawyer have launched an investigation "on a personal basis" into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories surrounding the election he won. The result will "probably" be eventual lawsuits, filed by Trump, targeting unnamed foes.
It's all plainly ridiculous, but it's also emblematic of a larger pattern: when the president is rattled, he likes to threaten lawsuits that will never materialize in reality.
Last year, for example, Trump seemed very excited about the prospect of suing the Democratic National Committee. No such lawsuit was ever filed.
As regular readers know, it was part of a familiar dynamic. Remember when Trump vowed to file lawsuits against the many women who accused him of sexual misconduct? His rhetoric proved hollow. Remember when Trump’s lawyers threatened a case against the publisher of Fire and Fury? Or when they were prepared to sue CBS News over a Stormy Daniels interview?
Those suits never materialized, either.
Trump and his team have an unfortunate habit of threatening all kinds of litigation, which they have no intention of ever filing. FiveThirtyEight counted the number of times during the 2016 presidential campaign that the Republican threatened to sue various people or organizations, and found 20 separate incidents – nearly all of which amounted to nothing.
Who knows, maybe this time will be different. Maybe Trump and Giuliani will assemble an enemies list filled with nefarious figures from three years ago, and the president will file litigation alleging ... something.
But it's far more likely that Trump is just casually throwing around empty threats to make himself feel better.