The action in the courtroom this week represents a potential reversal of fortune for Trump after a long list of defeats that the president has had in front of cases ranging from immigration to the 2020 census, passing by his efforts to thwart the democratic control of his central campaign promise of building a wall. For a man who presents himself as one of the ultimate winners of life, Trump's legal record is a nightmare.
Although the law has often thwarted Trump's political goals, he has always used it as a weapon to fight the Democrats, as the glue of his conservative coalition and to delay threatening political crises.
Often – as in the case of Trump's national emergency declaration intended to finance the wall of his border or the census – it seems that the long chances in court do not deter the president. The law gives Trump another place for the endless struggles that support his politics and his personality. Even if he loses, he shows his followers that he never gives up the battle.
Trump's judicial appointments are likely to shape the character of American life for years after he leaves the White House. And it is still possible that court decisions pose an existential threat to one's personal and professional heritage, given the multitude of cases going on in New York.
A rare victory
As is often the case, Trump's victories in court were surpassed by his losses this week.
Yet Trump's relationship with the courts is actually much more complicated than the win-lose ratio with which he judges his success and that of all those around him.
He used legal action to save face, to provide a new forum, to extend a fight, to postpone settlements or settlements amicably to limit the costs associated with the responsibilities of individuals and businesses.
The legal power plays
As president, Trump has also resorted to the courts to achieve broader goals than simply winning or losing a cause, especially since he was struggling to get Congress to adopt numbers. important bills – apart from an extensive tax reform program.
With bold assertions from the executive branch, Trump has made courts a consistent presence in his presidency.
When he won, he announced it. When, most often, he loses, judgments become proof, in his fundamental political case, that he is sought after by an elitist elite group and that he is treated unfairly.
Jurisdictions often try to get the courts what they can not legislate – and the Trump team as well as the GOP allies have been particularly enthusiastic in this regard.
The case also reflects the way in which, in the era of Congressional stasis and polarization, the courts are called upon to do the work that lawmakers may have already done.
Judge Kurt Engelhardt asked why, after a US district judge had declared the ACA unconstitutional as a whole, the Congress had not passed a law specifying what provisions were to remain in force.
"Why does the Congress want the … judicial system to become the taxidermist for everything Congress does in the legislative field?" Engelhardt asked.
The legal gambits of the administration have often reflected the chaos and politicized arguments that shake the administration every day and have sometimes hindered its own chances of success.
Sometimes Trump has resorted to personal litigation to try to frustrate his political enemies.
The president has also sometimes been the target of litigation: Democrats are turning more and more to the courts to enforce subpoenas.
The cases could eventually lead to profound decisions about the extent of presidential power that could resonate for decades. And if Trump refused to hand over documents or court-ordered income tax returns, he could translate the unfair predictions of an impending constitutional crisis into reality.
This is an example of where a lawsuit suits Trump perfectly.
In such cases, it is likely to fail in substance – but the slowness of the law means that it will at least postpone a politically threatening situation, perhaps even beyond the 2020 elections.
Each new challenge becomes a new example of "presidential harassment" – the term used by Trump and his allies to create a sense of victimization around his administration and to reinforce his support with his primary political base.
A lasting legal legacy
The political synergy between Trump and the courts has even deeper links with his presidency than the cases in which he is involved.
The president's decision to publish a list of potential Supreme Court judges reviewed by the Federalist Society was in hindsight one of the smartest moves of his 2016 campaign, integrating evangelical and judicial conservatives to his support base despite doubts about his personality and his ideology.
Trump has vowed to form a Conservative majority in the Supreme Court with the seats of Judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The new ideological balance of the court means that decisions favorable to Trump's position on everything from deregulation to abortion could be handed down for years.
And the president's alliance with Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has confirmed the appointment of conservative judges to lower courts in an impressive sequence.
There is no guarantee that these judges will necessarily share Trump's difficult and unique interpretations of the limits of presidential power.
But some of them could provide a more pro-ideological justice system to Trump's political efforts when he won a second term and could help break with his string of defeats.
And the class of Trump judges at all levels of the federal judiciary risks frustrating a future democratic president.
Dan Berman of CNN contributed to this report.