Trump campaign sues CNN for libel over opinion article

The Trump campaign announced Friday that it sued CNN for libel over an opinion article, saying it wants the network to be held “accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against” it.

The big picture: It’s the latest of a series of libel suits by the campaign aimed at media outlets’ opinion articles on issues linked to Russia. Over the last few weeks, the campaign has also sued the New York Times and the Washington Post, alleging similar motives.

  • While President Trump has often threatened to sue news organizations for libel, he has rarely followed through.
  • The efforts face a relatively high bar for proof compared to most lawsuits. In order for a public official to successfully sue for libel, they must be able to prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.”

The article named in the suit, written by CNN contributor Larry Noble and published in June, states that “the Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

  • That assertion is backed up earlier in the piece by citing a Trump interview last year with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, where Trump said he’d “want to hear” information offered on political opponents by a foreign government. His statement in that interview was also used to support an argument in one of the Post pieces that resulted in a lawsuit.
  • The CNN piece also cites an “Axios on HBO” interview with White House adviser Jared Kushner, who said that he doesn’t know whether he’d call the FBI if he were to receive another email like the one before the campaign’s Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

What they’re saying:

  • Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis: “The campaign filed this lawsuit against CNN and the preceding suits against The New York Times and The Washington Post to hold the publishers accountable for their reckless false reporting and also to establish the truth: that the campaign did not have an agreement, quid pro quo, or collusion with Russia, as the Mueller Report concluded.”
  • CNN declined to comment on the suit.

[Axios]

Trump 2020 Sues ‘Washington Post,’ Days After ‘N.Y. Times’ Defamation Suit

President Trump’s reelection campaign has sued The Washington Post claiming defamation in two opinion pieces published last June.

Both pieces raised concerns that Trump had invited Russia’s help to boost his electoral fortunes. The lawsuit follows last week’s defamation suit against The New York Times over an opinion piece written by the paper’s former executive editor, Max Frankel, on the same subject.

The lawsuits dovetail with the president’s ongoing political strategy of targeting major media outlets as foes.

The president is once more represented by the lawyer Charles Harder, known for helping to run media and gossip blog Gawker out of business. Harder previously represented first lady Melania Trump in securing settlements after filing defamation complaints against the Daily Mail and a Maryland blogger. Harder has also threatened litigation against major news organizations, including NPR, for other clients who were subject to critical coverage.

The lawsuit against the Post, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges Trump was defamed in columns by the liberal commentators Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman. Both referred to remarks Trump made to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in which he defended the idea of accepting damaging information about political opponents from foreign governments.

In Sargent’s case, he wrote that “Trump and/or his campaign….tried to conspire with” Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. Waldman’s column asked: “Who knows what sort of aid Russia and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?”

The president’s lawsuit refers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The suit maintains that the final report “concluded there was no conspiracy between the [2016] Campaign and the Russian government, and no United States person intentionally coordinated with Russia’s efforts.”

The Mueller report did say it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.” But it also concluded that “the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

First Amendment scholars tell NPR that prominent public officials must meet a tough legal standard to win defamation cases, especially those involving opinion pieces. That’s even more true for the nation’s chief executive, who is expected to be subject to widespread public criticism and scrutiny.

However, publications can be held liable for incorrect statements of fact made within opinion columns in which publishers are believed to have acted with “reckless disregard” or “actual malice” as defined under the law. The New York Times is still defending itself in a defamation suit by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was incorrectly linked to the shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a 2017 editorial. The newspaper later corrected the assertion and tweeted an apology from its opinion section account. Its lawyers have called it an honest mistake.

The decision to have the Trump-Pence campaign sue on behalf of the president allows the president’s costs to be borne by a special account funded by donors.

[NPR]

Trump campaign files libel suit against New York Times over Russia story

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign said on Wednesday it filed a libel suit against the New York Times accusing the newspaper of intentionally publishing a false opinion article related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in New York State Supreme Court, the state’s trial-level court.

A statement from the campaign said the aim of the litigation was to “hold the news organization accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against President Trump’s campaign.”

The lawsuit relates to a March 27, 2019, opinion article written by Max Frankel, who served as executive editor of the Times from 1986 to 1994.

The campaign attached to a news release a draft copy of the suit accusing the newspaper of “extreme bias against (the campaign) and animosity” and cited what it called the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020.” Trump is seeking re-election on Nov. 3.

The Times did not have an immediate comment.

The opinion piece was headlined, “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” with a subhead adding, “The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy.” Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor in exchange for a favor.

The lawsuit originated with the Trump re-election campaign, but Trump himself has contended the Times has at times been biased against him.

Trump often refers to various news media outlets as “fake news” and has called elements of the U.S. news media “the enemy of the American people.”

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documented Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to boost Trump’s 2016 candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

It documented numerous contacts between people associated between Trump’s campaign and Russians. Mueller found insufficient evidence to show a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia but did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice related to the investigation.

In the opinion piece, Frankel stated, “Collusion – or a lack of it – turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers.”

Frankel added, “There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

“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, senior legal adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory. The complaint alleges The Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process,” Ellis said.

In a copy of the lawsuit provided by his re-election team, the campaign stated, “The Times was well aware when it published these statements that they were not true.”

[Reuters]

TRUMP THREATENS TO SUE DEMOCRATS AND ‘SHIFTY ADAM SCHIFF’ FOR FRAUD OVER IMPEACHMENT

President Donald Trump spent early Friday evening denouncing the “impeachment scam” by Democrats and said his lawyers should sue the Democrats and “Shifty Adam Schiff” for fraud. The president, through tweets, said he had a “perfect Ukrainian call” and that Democrats not wanting Whistleblower testimony anymore furthers what he calls a “witch hunt.”

The president wrote Friday:

“Democrats just announced that they no longer want the Whistleblower to testify. But everything was about the Whistleblower (they no longer want the second Whistleblower either), which they don’t want because the account of my call bore NO RELATIONSHIP to the call itself…..,” Trump tweeted.

“…The entire Impeachment Scam was based on my perfect Ukrainian call, and the Whistleblowers account of that call, which turned out to be false (a fraud?). Once I released the actual call, their entire case fell apart. The Democrats must end this Scam now. Witch Hunt!”

Three minutes after that pair of tweets, the president said his lawyers should sue Rep. Adam Schiff, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and his Democrat colleagues.

“My lawyers should sue the Democrats and Shifty Adam Schiff for fraud!”

The calls for Trump’s impeachment has grown exponentially among Democrats this calendar year, from freshmen representatives like Rashida Tlaib to veteran lawmakers like Maxine Waters, Al Green and the late Elijah Cummings.

Schiff has been the most notable House member pushing impeachment, after reports of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Democrats say Trump’s call was to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads most 2020 Democratic presidential candidate polls, and his son, Hunter Biden.

Trump said the call was to congratulate Zelensky on his victory and that he told the Ukrainian president they could quickly improve their image.

In August, a whistleblower filed a complaint with Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, in regards to the Ukrainian phone call by Trump. A month later, Trump acknowledged bringing up Biden’s name in the phone call.

On Sept. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions. A day later, the White House released a transcript of the Ukraine call.

Trump has called the impeachment inquiry a “scam” and “witch hunt,” and began targeting the whistleblower, asking for a personal interview with them.

Three weeks ago, the White House indicated it would not cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiries.

While each side has threatened lawsuits against each other, it was President Trump on Friday encouraging his side to sue the Democrats and Rep. Schiff in the latest round of the impeachment standoff.

[Newsweek]

Trump Is Feuding With the Mayor of Minneapolis Over Security Costs for His Rally

The Trump campaign is locked in a battle with Minneapolis after the city insisted the president’s team cover $530,000 in security costs for a rally later this week.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that city officials told the Target Center, where Trump is planning to hold a re-election rally, that it would have to cover the security costs. The company that manages the arena, AEG, then reportedly passed those costs on to Trump’s campaign, which has now threatened legal action if it’s not assured by Tuesday that the arena would be available for the rally later in the week.

The Trump campaign also slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, saying he was using the rally to boost his profile.

“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their president, and no mayor looking to beef up his resume for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”

Frey has been a critic of Trump, and when it was announced that Trump would hold a rally in the city, he said the president’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”

Frey got into a spat with Trump on Twitter on Tuesday, after the president said the “lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters.”

“Yawn… Welcome to Minneapolis, where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors,” wrote Frey in response.

The Trump campaign has come under fire for not paying its costs in the past. A report from the Center for Public Integrity in June revealed that Trump’s campaign owed city governments at least $841,219 in unpaid bills for public safety–related expenses.

There’s no legal obligation for campaigns to cover the costs that cities incur during rallies, but they are allowed to use campaign funds to do so. Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal told the Star Tribune that “it’s not fair” for residents to have to cover security costs at events.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the event is. If it’s anticipated that there will be a need for additional response … a source of revenue for that needs to be found,” she told the paper.

[Vice]

Trump sues Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance over subpoena for his tax returns

President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Thursday against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm for eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns earlier this month.

The subpoena stems from Vance’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization about hush money payments made to two women who have alleged affairs with the president. Trump has strongly denied the affairs.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, names Vance and the president’s tax preparer, Mazars USA, as defendants. It argues that the Manhattan district attorney should not receive Trump’s tax returns because “‘[v]irtually all legal commenters agree’ that a sitting President of the United States is not ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office.”

“The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the President to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the lawsuit adds. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the President from his constitutional duties. That is why the Framers eliminated this possibility and assigned the task to supermajorities of Congress acting with the imprimatur of the nation as a whole.”

Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer, commented on the constitutionality of Vance’s probe in a statement Thursday, saying, “In response to the subpoenas issued by the New York County District Attorney, we have filed a lawsuit this morning in Federal Court on behalf of the President in order to address the significant constitutional issues at stake in this case.”

Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost said in response to the lawsuit,”We have received the plaintiff’s complaint and will respond as appropriate in court. We will have no further comment as this process unfolds in court.”

Vance’s office is probing hush money payments made during the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom have alleged affairs with Trump, which he has denied.

In addition to Trump’s company, Vance’s office has also subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer, The New York Times has reported. The publication was involved in negotiations with adult Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Giffords, and paid $150,000 to silence McDougal, according to federal prosecutors.

The president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted in August of last year to making an illegal $130,000 payment to Daniels in order to keep her quiet in the days ahead of the 2016 election. Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud, breaking campaign finance laws with the hush money payments, and lying to Congress.

Prior to his congressional testimony earlier this year, Cohen released copies of two checks with the president’s signature, which he said was used to reimburse him for his payment to Daniels. NBC News has previously reported that Cohen was cooperating with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Last year, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, entered into a nonprosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and admitted that it worked with the Trump campaign to buy the rights to the women’s stories in order to silence them. The practice, known in the industry as “catch-and-kill,” involves paying for the exclusive rights to stories with the intention of never actually publishing them.

At his sentencing last year, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”

[NBC News]

President Donald Trump Is Suing Omarosa And Others For Confidentiality Breaches

President Trump announced today during his regular weekend tweetstorm that he is suing former aide and The Apprentice arch-villian Omarosa Manigault Newman and unspecified others for a breach of confidentiality agreements.

“Yes, I am currently suing various people for violating their confidentiality agreements,” Trump tweeted. “Disgusting and foul mouthed Omarosa is one. I gave her every break, despite the fact that she was despised by everyone, and she went for some cheap money from a book. Numerous others also!”

While the President is pursuing some cases, his most recent breach, Madeleine Westerhout, will not be one of them. The former personal assistant met with reporters in what was allegedly an “off-the-record” session, but her imprudent remarks on the President and his relationships with his family found their way into the media.

Politico reported that she Trump does not appear with daughter Tiffany in pictures because she’s overweight., adding that Trump “couldn’t pick Tiffany out of a crowd.”

While Westerhout “has a fully enforceable confidentiality agreement, she is a very good person and I don’t think there would ever be reason to use it,” Trump tweeted. “She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!”Omarosa is another story. Her book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, was a highly critical account of her time with Trump on televisioni and in the White House. Trump’s campaign, Donald J. Trump For President Inc.,  filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman for allegedly breaching a 2016 confidentiality agreement. The disposition of that case has not been revealed, and it’s unclear whether that’s the lawsuit Trump referenced in his tweet today.Manigault has kept a relatively low profile since her book came out. The non-fiction account did well in its first week, then sunk, despite a huge media blitz by the talkative former aide.

[Deadline]

Trump Threatens legal actions over confidentiality in wake of Westerhout firing

President Donald Trump on Saturday stressed his ongoing legal battles to keep details of his administration’s inner workings from emerging in books and press reports following the firing of his personal assistant.

“Yes, I am currently suing various people for violating their confidentiality agreements. Disgusting and foul mouthed Omarosa is one. I gave her every break, despite the fact that she was despised by everyone, and she went for some cheap money from a book. Numerous others also!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s attack on his former White House adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman, followed the firing of his personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, who was let go Thusday for revealing to reporters details of her relationship with Trump and his daughters.

Trump also appeared to rebut a report by the New York Times stating that Westerhout did not sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“While Madeleine Westerhout has a fully enforceable confidentiality agreement, she is a very good person and I don’t think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!” Trump wrote.

Trump’s 2016 campaign team, transition team and political appointees are typically expected to sign a non-disclosure agreement, even if the legal foundations of such agreements are murky. Trump Organization employees would also be routinely required to sign such agreements.

NDAs are not typically signed by federal workers as they’re thought to be public servants who are not beholden to any individual, which would include White House staff. Any agreement is therefore not easily enforceable.

Omarosa claimed she refused to sign “that draconian NDA” during her tenure at the White House following the release of a tell-all book, although she stated she signed two non-disclosure agreements during Trump’s presidential campaign and her time on “The Apprentice” in 2003.

Following her acrimonious firing, Omarosa also released audio of conversations recorded at the White House.

[Politico]

DOJ Says It’s Been ‘Instructed’ By Trump To Try To Get Citizenship Question Back On Census

The Justice Department told a federal judge on Wednesday that it had been “instructed” to try to find a way to get the citizenship question back on the 2020 census, after the Supreme Court blocked its previous effort to do so last month.

The update came after President Trump tweeted Wednesday that previous government statements that the administration was backing down from its census citizenship fight were incorrect. U.S. District Judge George Hazel convened a teleconference hearing on Wednesday as confusion swirled around the issue. Both the Justice Department and the Commerce Department had said on Tuesday that the forms had been sent off to printers without the question on it.

Jody Hunt, a top DOJ official, told the judge that the administration believed there may be a “legally available” path to getting the question re-added while still complying with the Supreme Court’s ruling, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by TPM (see below).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1M3Y6vj3QlQpSdlYcCdq3BkbnnWIrEPlf/view

Hunt said the plan, if the government goes down that route, is to go directly to the Supreme Court to get instructions on how to streamline future proceedings over its efforts to re-add the question.

A couple of hours after the hearing, the Justice Department filed an update (see below) in a separate census case in New York reaffirming that the administration had reversed course and was looking for a way to add the citizenship question.

“In the event that the Commerce Department adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court, the Government will immediately notify this Court,” the DOJ filing said.

[Talking Points Memo]

Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court

President Trump on Wednesday said that he would attempt to challenge impeachment in the Supreme Court if Democrats carried out such proceedings, though it’s unclear the high court would hear such a case.

“The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted.

“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all,” he continued.

The president accused Democrats, Hillary Clinton and “dirty cops” of being guilty of criminal activity.

“We waited for Mueller and WON, so now the Dems look to Congress as last hope!” Trump concluded.

The House holds the power to carry out impeachment proceedings, while the Senate is responsible for whether to convict the individual in question. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, currently John Roberts, would preside over the Senate trial.

There is little precedent to support the idea of the Supreme Court weighing in on the merits of impeachment, as a sitting president has not previously challenged impeachment proceedings in the high court.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1993 case of federal Judge Walter Nixon that whether the Senate properly conducted an impeachment trial was a political question, and therefore nonjusticiable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, rejected the possibility of Trump taking an impeachment to the Supreme Court.

“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate, where [Chief Justice] Roberts would preside over Trump’s Impeachment Trial,” tweeted Tribe, an outspoken critic of the president.

The president has been fixated in recent days on pushing back against the specter of impeachment proceedings, while maintaining that he is “not even a little bit” concerned about the possibility of removal from office.

Democratic leaders have largely said they don’t yet support starting the impeachment process, but remained open to the possibility in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s full report.

In the partly redacted document, investigators did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election, but did not exonerate Trump on the question of obstruction of justice. 

Investigators instead detailed 10 episodes they reviewed for potential obstruction by the president, with Mueller saying that Congress has the authority to conduct potential obstruction probes.

Talk of whether to carry out impeachment hearings has split Democrats, and discussions have intensified in the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

“I do believe that impeachment is one of the most divisive forces, paths that we could go down to in our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. “But if the facts, the path of fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”

House Democrats have launched a flurry of investigations into the president, seeking to review his finances, potential abuse of power and corruption within the administration.Trump later asserted in a pair of tweets that he had been cooperative with the Mueller investigation, and suggested Congress should focus on legislation instead of seeking additional information from the White House as part of its own probes. “Millions of pages of documents were given to the Mueller Angry Dems, plus I allowed everyone to testify, including W.H. counsel. I didn’t have to do this, but now they want more,” Trump tweeted. “Congress has no time to legislate, they only want to continue the Witch Hunt, which I have already won. They should start looking at The Criminals who are already very well known to all. This was a Rigged System – WE WILL DRAIN THE SWAMP!”

[The Hill]

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