Skip to main content

Hillary Clinton Says Trump Can’t Use Four Years of ‘Eminently Important Presidential Duties’ to Avoid Statute of Limitations in RICO Lawsuit


Then-U.S. President Donald Trump was photographed golfing on July 15, 2018 in Turnberry, Scotland, after meeting with the Prime Minister and the Queen. Hillary Clinton took part in a panel discussion during BroadwayCon 2022 at The Manhattan Center on July 8, 2022 in New York City. (Photo of Trump by Leon Neal/Getty Images; photo of Clinton by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.)

Attorneys for Hillary Clinton say it is legally wrong for Donald Trump to assert that he was so consumed with the duties of the presidency that he could not file a politically charged civil racketeering lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired.

In a joint Thursday filing, lawyers for Clinton and other defendants — among them John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Marc Elias, Michael Sussmann, Glenn Simpson, Igor Danchenko, Rodney Joffe, the Democratic National Committee, and the law firm Perkins Coie — reasserted arguments that Trump’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations despite Trump’s “novel” attempt to pause the clock during his four-year term as president.

“Plaintiff’s lengthy Opposition largely ignores the legal flaws that Defendants identified in their two rounds of motions to dismiss,” Thursday’s reply motion from the defendants argues.  “In sum, Plaintiff’s allegations do not add up to any cognizable claims. As an initial matter, his own tweets confirm his claims are untimely. In an attempt to revive them, Plaintiff urges the Court to invent a novel Presidential tolling doctrine wholly unsupported by case law and belied by his own extracurricular litigation while in office.”

Trump filed the case on March 24, 2022, more than five years after the 2016 election. The statute of limitations would generally be a fatal flaw to the case. As Law&Crime has previously noted, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a four-year statute of limitations applies to civil RICO claims. Federal statutes say a four-year statute of limitations applies to civil claims which arise “under an Act of Congress,” but there are exceptions for certain cases, such as matters involving securities.

Trump’s legal team claimed on Aug. 4 that the “immense and unrelenting demands involved in serving as President” made it impossible for Trump to file his RICO lawsuit against myriad actors connected to Clinton’s 2016 campaign at an earlier date. Trump’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks to grant “an equitable tolling of all relevant statutes of limitations” in Trump’s favor.

Clinton and a collection of other defendants replied Thursday to those assertions (we’ve omitted most of the legal citations):

Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling during his presidential term because “he was preoccupied with carrying out his eminently important presidential duties” and was “tirelessly . . . devoted to serving the Nation and ensuring the well-being of the American people.” Plaintiff failed to plead these factual predicates for his latest effort to avoid the statute of limitations. And any such pleading would be futile, because no authority supports the “rare remedy” of equitable tolling here.

Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that presidential duties do not afford a President shelter from civil litigation. Although Plaintiff relies on language from Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), he ignores its holding. There, the Court rejected a stay of civil litigation during President Clinton’s term. Notwithstanding the burdens of the office, the Court concluded that the President’s engagement in civil litigation would not unduly interfere with his responsibilities.

The defendants noted that Congress could have — but did not — craft a statute which gave presidents the chance to equitably toll the civil statutes of limitations during their presidencies.

Trump’s lawyers have also argued that some of the alleged pro-Clinton conduct didn’t become apparent until well after it occurred and that the statute of limitations should also be tolled on those grounds as well.

The defendants, however, have long argued that Trump has been complaining of the same alleged ills for years; therefore, they argue that Trump’s suggestion that some of the evidence has been newly discovered is not accurate.

“Plaintiff nowhere acknowledges that his own tweets prove he was on notice of his purported claims, at the very latest, by October 2017,” Clinton and the other defendants asserted in their Thursday filing.

The defendants continued on that train of thought:

Despite now insisting that he could not have discovered his claims until recently, Plaintiff took to Twitter in 2017 to accuse Clinton, the Democrats, the intelligence community, and others of the very conduct at the heart of the [amended complaint]: the alleged fabrication of the Steele Dossier and use of DNS data as part of an effort to build a supposedly false narrative of his connections to Russia. [Citation omitted.] Because Plaintiff’s tweets are judicially noticeable and prove his claims are untimely, the Court should dismiss on statute- of-limitations grounds.

Clinton and her lawyers have argued in previous motions that the statute of limitations slammed shut long ago and that Trump’s massive lawsuit should fail simply because he didn’t file it on time.

“Plaintiff’s claims fare no better on the merits,” Clinton’s team also reasserted on Thursday. “He simply reiterates and block-quotes allegations in the Amended Complaint (‘AC’), asserting they must be adequate because they are voluminous. But notwithstanding the density of Plaintiff’s allegations, each claim is missing necessary legal predicates, devoid of well-pleaded factual allegations, or improperly based on ‘labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements.’ [Citation omitted.] And where Plaintiff cites cases, they are irrelevant, distinguishable, or — often — contrary to his own position.”

“Plaintiff’s insistence . . . that Defendants shared a corrupt motive to harm his ‘political reputation’ and ‘damag[e] his electability’ exposes this suit for what it is: an effort to exact political payback and inflict needless litigation costs on Plaintiff’s perceived opponents,” Clinton and the other defendants continued via their lawyers on Thursday.  “But Plaintiff’s political grudges are not legally cognizable claims, and nothing in the Opposition overcomes the many deficiencies that require dismissal of the AC with prejudice.”

Trump sued Clinton, her campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and a group of other defendants for allegedly conspiring to malign Trump and his campaign during the 2016 election — which he won.  The gravamen of the lawsuit is Trump’s complaint that the defendants cooked up a narrative surrounding Russian collusion and that their collective actions should now be redressable by a damages payment of $24 million.

The lawsuit alleges RICO violations and other civil torts. In an amended complaint, Trump’s attorneys said Trump suffered a “loss of political and/or business reputation, loss of business opportunities, loss of competitive position, loss of business revenue, loss of goodwill, loss of trade secrets, and/or loss of contractual relations, and has suffered actual, compensatory, special, incidental, and consequential damages in addition to costs of defense and attorneys’ fees” due to the alleged acts of the defendants.

Clinton and several of the aforementioned defendants lawyers said Thursday that the case should be “dismissed with prejudice in its entirety.”

Read the Thursday filing below:

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.