Donald Trump’s scorched earth campaign against the free press has taken a disturbing turn with a new report from Reuters that the president’s re-election campaign is suing The New York Times for libel.
Ludicrously, they’re claiming that the paper knowingly published a fabricated story on March 27th, 2019 about the Russian election interference investigation. The lawsuit is, of course, driven by Trump’s need to smear and undermine the media, something he has been trying to do since day one of his presidency. And, as usual, there is absolutely no proof that his claim is rooted in anything even vaguely resembling the truth.
The article in question was an opinion piece by Max Frankel which postulated that Trump’s 2016 campaign had an implied quid pro quo understanding with Russia: Putin’s regime would help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton and in return the victorious Trump would cultivate a pro-Russia foreign policy for the United States. While the claim was never proven, there is no evidence that it was an intentional lie on Frankel’s part.
The libel suit was filed in the New York State Supreme Court and the campaign is claiming that it’s aimed at holding the Times “accountable” for intentionally spreading mistruths about the president. Coming from what can only be described as the most aggressively mendacious leader in American history, it’s difficult not to laugh at the brazen hypocrisy on display here. Like any publication, the Times makes mistakes sometimes. Unlike Trump, they issue corrections and admit their errors once they realize them.
“Today the President’s re-election campaign filed suit against the New York Times for falsely stating the Campaign had an ‘overarching deal’ with ‘Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy’ to ‘help the campaign against Hillary Clinton’ in exchange for ‘a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from … economic sanctions,’” said Jenna Ellis, the Senior Legal Adviser for the Trump campaign. She went on to blast the Times for spreading “100 percent false and defamatory” information and that the paper was explicitly trying to hurt Trump’s campaign.
As The Hill‘s Harper Neidig explains, the Trump team could have a difficult time finding any purchase with their lawsuit:
“The lawsuit will likely have to overcome tough hurdles in order to succeed. In 1964, the Supreme Court severely restricted the ability of public officials to sue for defamation, ruling in the landmark case New York Times v. Sullivan that a plaintiff would have to prove that false statements about them were made with ‘actual malice,'” writes Neidig.
Regardless of how this suit shakes out, it should serve as a reminder of just how anti-First Amendment this president is and how little respect he has for the Constitution he swore to uphold. The longer he stays in power, the more egregious his attacks on our fundamental rights will become.
President Trump's re-election campaign says it has filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Times, accusing the newspaper of intentionally publishing a false story last year related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election https://t.co/ABdiSrfxMt pic.twitter.com/sSKhgIdOjr
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 26, 2020