Trump fought the law and the law….


Maybe former President Donald Trump didn’t listen to much top-40 radio in the 1960s.

If he had, the Bobby Fuller Four’s biggest hit would have offered him sound advice.

In 1966, the group stormed into the top 10 on the Billboard charts with an infectious number, “I Fought the Law.”

The song had a driving, emphatic refrain: “I fought the law and the law won.”

That catchy hook pretty much summarizes the last year of Trump’s life.

In just the past few weeks, the former president has been hit with $88 million worth of judgments in a defamation suit filed by the writer E. Jean Carroll. Carroll said Trump sexually assaulted her years ago. Trump replied that she was lying, so she took him to court.

The court agreed with her, finding not only that Trump had maligned her but that he had sexually assaulted her. Carroll was set to walk away with a $5 million judgment.

Trump, though, demonstrated the maturity and emotional self-discipline that have become his trademarks. He continued to defame Carroll, so she took him back to court.

His culpability already had been established, so the only matter of substance before the court was determining how much more money Trump would have to cough up. It turned out that the answer to that question was another $83.3 million.

Less than a month after that judgment rocked the former president, Trump found himself on the wrong end of another court-ordered spanking.

A New York court already had determined Trump and his business associates, including his sons, had committed fraud by grossly inflating the value of their holdings to secure financing from banks. (They also then turned around and deflated many of those same holdings to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.)

Once again, the court’s responsibility was to determine how large a penalty would be imposed on Trump.

This time, the number was $354 million. With interest on top of that, the former president will have to cough up more than $450 million—which is considerably more than the cash Trump has on hand.

Worse for Trump, neither he nor his sons will be allowed to do business in New York in the coming years. Control over their enterprises will be in the hands of a court-appointed supervisor.

All told, Trump already is on the hook for more than a half-billion in judgments and hundreds of millions more in legal fees.

And he’s nowhere near the end of his legal troubles.

How did he get to this point?

Well, he decided to fight the law.

And the law won.

Trump fulminated during both the defamation and the fraud case that he was being treated unfairly. He said that he was being persecuted for being rich, famous and a former president.

He also accused both judges of being corrupt and horrible human beings.

I’ve worked with many truly fine attorneys over the years. Not one of them ever has advised that insulting the judge—the person who holds your fate in his or her hands—is likely to be a winning strategy.

The one thing Trump didn’t do was attempt to prove that he hadn’t done the things he’d been accused of doing.

Perhaps that is because he couldn’t. In both cases, the evidence against him was at worst compelling and at most overwhelming.

So, he decided to argue that the law shouldn’t matter.

That, because he is rich, famous and a former president, the law shouldn’t apply to him.

And that any court that attempted to hold him accountable for his record of malfeasance was illegitimate.

At times, he even argued that the very idea of the law was illegitimate.

The courts responded not just by demonstrating, in irrefutable detail, Trump’s culpability in each case but by refuting his argument that the law does not matter.

In other words, the law fought back.

And won.

Trump has many more dates in court ahead of him.

In each case, he’s advanced the same sort of argument that he did with these two civil cases. He doesn’t attempt to argue that he didn’t do the things for which he’s charged, but that the law doesn’t have any right to make him follow it.

He still wants to fight the law.

Bet the law wins.

FOOTNOTE: John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin C