It's a busy time for attorneys in DC.
The Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign over the 2016 election; Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is planning to file lawsuits—possibly alleging defamation or wrongful termination—against the federal government. Meanwhile, the FBI's inspector general has referred his findings on Mr. McCabe to the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution.
And regardless of the legal outcomes, there's already a winner in all these cases: Donald Trump.
This flurry of court filings is fantastic news for a guy like Trump, in part because his base loves it when he's fighting. But even more helpful is how these cases play into the narrative crafted by the president's defenders: It's all just politics.
For example, the mere fact that the DNC is suing the Trump campaign (and Russia and Wikileaks and "John Does 1-10," etc.) helps Team Trump. What screams "partisan politics" more than being sued by an actual political party, and over the results of an election its candidate lost?
Trump supporters already believe special counsel Robert Mueller and his allies are just out to "get Trump," and that the entire #Russiagate saga is really just sour grapes from Trump haters who can't believe he won. Everything that promotes the partisan angle on this story--from the embarrassingly-anti-Trump texts between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the fact that the lawyers on Mueller's team have donated almost exclusively to Democrats—all this is good news for Trump's defense.
No wonder President Trump couldn't contain his glee, expressed over Twitter this weekend: "So funny the Democrats have sued the Republicans for Winning. Now he R's counter and force them to turn over a treasure trove of material, including Servers and Emails!"
Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, is also being sued by the DNC, had a similar message, albeit with a fundraising twist. "The Democrats are suing and for revealing how the DNC rigged the Democratic primaries," Wikileaks tweeted Friday. "Help us counter-sue. We've never lost a publishing case and discovery is going to be amazing fun."
Note to the DNC: When the people you're suing are having "fun," you may want to re-think your strategy.
Speaking of strategy, the conventional wisdom is that this lawsuit is just a fundraising strategy for the Democrats, too, and not a pursuit of justice. As CBS News' Kathryn Watson notes in her reporting, "The DNC is dealing with significant debt after the 2016 election, and. As of the end of February, the DNC had $10.1 million in the bank, but owed $6.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records."
The problem for DNC chair Tom Perez is that, if this lawsuit goes forward, Mr. Trump and Assange are on point regarding "discovery:" that is, the right of the party you're suing to dig around in your records. And that means even more storylines to feed the "it's just politics" narrative.
Check out this tweet from Donald Trump from Friday: "Just heard the Campaign was sued by the Obstructionist Democrats. This can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton Emails."
How many Americans even know what he's referring to in that tweet? "DNC Server?" "Pakistani mystery man?" To most Americans, those words mean nothing.
But to talk-radio listeners and consumers of conservative media, these stories are well known. The DNC declined to give its servers, which were believed to have been hacked by the Russians, to the FBI after the embarrassing emails were released. According to former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the DNC "turned down help from the FBI after its system was hacked."
And the "Pakistani mystery man" is a reference to Imran Awan, an IT staffer for Democrats in the House who was arrested for charges related to bank fraud as he was about to fly to Pakistan. Conservative media outlets think he is part of a scandal that's been largely ignored by the mainstream media. It's an embarrassing story for Democrats, and it's also a story that would be impossible for the press to ignore if the DNC's lawsuit moves forward.
Then there's the McCabe lawsuit. It opens up the doors for Mr. Trump's lawyers to do discovery on the guy who was inside the FBI during the Hillary Clinton email scandal, the Russian "dossier," which was funded by Clinton and by the DNC, and the decision to investigate the Trump campaign in the first place. Given the partisan paper trail we've already seen from the FBI, imagine what this story could look like if we get to see everything.
And as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out at National Review, this case helps Mr. Trump by highlighting, not just that McCabe lied, but what McCabe lied about. "He lied about leaking a conversation in which the Obama Justice Department pressured the FBI to stand down on an investigation of the Clinton Foundation," McCarthy says. Which means suing President Trump would bring even more attention to the problematic behavior of the Obama DOJ—another story the mainstream press has largely underplayed.
Now add to this the effects of the current "McCabe vs Comey" fight as each accuses the other of dishonesty during their time in the FBI. Donald Trump's not-unreasonable hope is that people will listen to these two Trump accusers and decide they're both liars. If they do—Trump wins!
President Trump still faces legal difficulties, however., and his personal attorney .
Anything can happen. But presidents enjoy a certain level of legal immunity while in office and the odds of the president being pushed out or prosecuted are low. Mr. Trump's real challenge is political, and he knows it.