NPR publishes audio of Cohen threatening reporter

New released audio recordings revealed on Thursday that President Trump‘s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen made a string of vulgar legal threats to a reporter in an effort to protect Trump.

The audio, taken from a 2015 interview with Cohen and then-Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak and published by NPR – Mak’s current employer – on Thursday, reveal Cohen making legal threats to Mak over a piece he was writing about a 1993 Trump biography.

The biography, written by former Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt III and titled “The Lost Tycoon,” details a sworn deposition from Trump’s first wife, Ivana, who alleged during her divorce proceedings that Trump had raped her.

When he reached out to Trump’s then-campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks for more information about the claim, Mak said he received an angry call from Cohen.

According to Mak, the lawyer initially attempted to convince him not to go through with the story by falsely claiming that spousal rape was not a crime.

“You’re talking about Donald Trump, you’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual, who never raped anybody and of course understand that by the very definition you can’t rape your spouse,” Cohen said in one audio recording.

Spousal rape has been illegal in the state of New York, where Donald and Ivana Trump resided during their marriage, since 1984. The incident to which Ivana Trump’s claim refers took place in 1989.

“Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don’t have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen went on. “Do not even think about going where I know you’re planning on going. And that’s my warning for the day.”

“Michael, besides the warning, do you have a substantive comment that I can include in the piece that reflects your views on this?” Mak responds.

“I have no views because there’s no story,” Cohen said before warning Mak to “tread very f—ing lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting.”

“Do you understand me? Don’t think you can hide behind your pen because it’s not going to happen.” Cohen said. “I’m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because motherf—er you’re going to need it.”

The release of the audio recordings come amid Cohen’s ongoing legal trouble.

Cohen is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His home and office were raided by the FBI last month as part of Mueller’s investigation.

[The Hill]

Trump legal team blasts explosive Michael Wolff book in cease-and-desist letter

President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has demanded on behalf of his client that author Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of a forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury, according to a letter obtained by ABC News.

The book is scheduled to be released next week but excerpts have caused a stir.

“We are investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr. Trump,” the lawyer wrote to Wolff.

The letter goes on to say they are looking into possible defamation of Trump and his family and invasion of privacy.

The lengthy letter to Wolff and Henry Holt and Co. Inc. goes on to accuse the author of actual malice.

It states, “Actual malice (reckless disregard for the truth) can be proven by the fact that the Book admits in the Introduction that it contains untrue statements. Moreover, the Book appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called ‘sources’ have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them. Other alleged ‘sources’ of statements about Mr. Trump are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements or are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump.”

Harder sent a similar letter to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon Wednesday night demanding he cease and desist from making allegedly false statements against the president and his family.

Bannon has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment. Wolff and his publisher have also not responded.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump hit back at Bannon in scathing comments, saying that when Bannon was fired “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

President Trump’s comments, which came in the form of a written statement from the White House, were in response to Bannon’s strident criticism of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort for sitting down with a group of Russians who promised damaging information against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election in excerpts from Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” the president said in a statement. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

[ABC News]

Reality

Man who lead the racist birther movement upset with book of “false” claims about him.

Trump Reportedly Threatened USGA With Lawsuit If It Moved Women’s Open

U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told members of the USGA’s executive committee that Donald Trump threatened to sue the organization if it moved the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, N.J., according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting.

Davis informed the USGA executive committee about Trump’s threat on a conference call about two years ago, just as Trump was beginning his successful campaign for president, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the USGA has not publicly discussed the matter.

Davis, who told the group he and other USGA officials had met with Trump, told the executive committee, “We can’t get out of this. He’s going to sue us,” according to the person.

Reached on his cell phone Monday morning at Trump National, where the U.S. Women’s Open takes place this week, Davis said, “I have no comment on that. It would be inappropriate if I said that it happened or that it didn’t.”

Davis added later in a statement to USA TODAY Sports: “As a matter of policy, the terms of our contracts with championship host sites are confidential and accordingly the USGA will not comment. We are excited that our U.S. Women’s Open Championship week has begun and are focused on providing the ultimate test of golf for the best female players in the world.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney, referred request for comment to Trump organization executive vice president and chief legal officer Alan Garten and Trump organization executive vice president of development Larry Glick. USA TODAY Sports left messages for both men as well as two officials at Trump National in Bedminster Monday afternoon. None of the messages has been returned.

The USGA’s choice of Trump National to host the crown jewel of women’s golf was barely noticed when it was announced in 2012. That began to change in the spring of 2015, according to the person, with Trump’s interest in and subsequent announcement that he was going to run for president.

“More than anything, it was very pre-emptive, before the storm if he did get elected president,” the person said. “We were starting to get some pressure and so it was brought up and he said he would sue us if we moved it.”

Then, in October 2016, during the final weeks of the presidential campaign, the infamous Access Hollywood video tape was made public, on which Trump is shown bragging that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women without having to worry about ramifications. This was particularly embarrassing for the USGA, which, as the national governing body for golf in the United States, has sought for years to attract more women and girls to a game with a history of discriminatory and exclusionary practices at private clubs.

After the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, three U.S. senators — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) — sent a letter to the USGA asking that the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open not be played at Trump National.

“The decision that the USGA makes is more consequential than simply the geographic location of a golf tournament,” the senators wrote. “In declining future association with a brand that degrades women, the USGA and LPGA have an opportunity to make clear to the world, and most especially young Americans, that our nation will not tolerate nor do business with any company that condones or excuses action that constitutes sexual assault.”

The USGA declined to move the tournament, which begins Thursday morning at Trump National.

“Let me make it very clear,” Davis told reporters in May, “that when we came here, it was all about coming to a great golf course playing the greatest championship in women’s golf. The USGA, since its founding in 1894, has never been involved with politics. Our focus is solely on the game of golf. We appreciate that there’s some out there that want to make this a political event. We’re not. This is a golf event of the United States Golf Association. We’re really excited about this.”

[USA Today]

 

 

The US Department of Justice is Literally Prosecuting a Woman for Laughing at Jeff Sessions

It is hard to believe this is happening, but it’s real: The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at now–Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year.

According to Ryan Reilly at HuffPost, Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested in January after she laughed at a claim from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that Sessions’s history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

Sessions, in fact, has a long history of opposing the equal treatment of all Americans under the law. He has repeatedly criticized the historic Voting Rights Act. He voted against hate crime legislation that protected LGBTQ people, arguing, “Today, I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.” And his nomination for a position as a federal judge was rejected in the 1980s after he was accused of making racist remarks, including a supposed joke that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.”

Given this history, Fairooz laughed at Shelby’s claim.

But federal prosecutors have pushed forward with the case against Fairooz. As Reilly reported, prosecutors argue that “the laugh amounted to willful ‘disorderly and disruptive conduct’ intended to ‘impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct’ of congressional proceedings.” In court, they have tried to emphasize that the laugh was extraordinarily disruptive, with a US Capitol Police officer claiming that Fairooz laughed “very loudly” and people in the hearings turned around when they heard it.

Fairooz’s defense, meanwhile, has argued that her laughter was a reflex and not meant to disrupt the hearings. Fairooz was also in the back of the room, and her laughter had no noticeable impact, based on video of the hearings, on Shelby’s introductory speech for Sessions.

The trial will continue at the Superior Court in DC this week. If convicted, Fairooz faces a fine up to $500 and up to six months’ imprisonment for the laugh-related charge. She is also charged with another misdemeanor for “allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room,” Reilly reported.

Fairooz has a history of disruptive protests. During protests over the Iraq War, she put fake blood on her hands and confronted then–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

This time, however, Fairooz claims she was not trying to be disruptive — but merely laughing.

These details are all salient for the legal case, but it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture here: The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Justice Department — which Sessions now leads as attorney general — is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader. At the very least, it’s not a good look for the top law enforcement agency in the country.

(h/t Vox)

Melania Trump Wins Damages From Daily Mail Over ‘Escort’ Allegation

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper has agreed to pay damages and costs to the first lady of the United States over an article about her modelling career.

The newspaper had reported allegations that Melania Trump once worked as an escort, but later retracted the claims.

The story was published during the US election campaign last year.

Mrs Trump accepted damages and an apology from the newspaper at London’s High Court.

She filed lawsuits against the Daily Mail newspaper in the United Kingdom, and its digital operation Mail Online in the United States.

The US suit, filed last year, sought damages of $150m (£120m). The amount accepted by Mrs Trump in London was not disclosed in court.

However, reports suggest the payout was closer to $3m, including legal costs and damages. It is understood it will also settle the case in New York.

In its apology, the Daily Mail acknowledged it had published “allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling”.

The article also claimed that Mr and Mrs Trump may have met three years before they actually did, and later “staged” their first meeting.

“We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true,” the newspaper said.

A lawyer for Mrs Trump told the London court the allegations “strike at the heart of the claimant’s personal integrity and dignity”.

Her lawyer said the double-page spread in August last year, titled “Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife’s past that could derail Trump”, featured an old nude photo of Mrs Trump from her modelling career.

“Readers of the newspaper that day could not fail to miss the article,” he said.

And so the mighty Mail titles have been Trumped.

Well, almost. There are people in the legal profession flabbergasted at the size of the damages that Melania Trump has received from Associated Newspapers.

But given some of the figures bandied about when this case first arose, that isn’t as bad as some at the Mail group may have feared.

Moreover, the Mail are pointing out that they stick by some aspects of their original story, but accept error on the most salacious: that the First Lady was an escort.

It will be interesting to see if this settlement encourages others to be more aggressive toward UK papers, and also whether it helps to spread the trend for legal action across multiple jurisdictions.

Charles Harder, Mrs Trump’s lawyer, also acted for Hulk Hogan when the wrestler brought his $140m (£112m) case against Gawker Media, forcing its sale.

Compared to that, this action is small fry.

Mrs Trump’s lawsuit initially said that Mrs Trump had the “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which [she] is one of the most photographed women in the world”.

Critics used the phrasing to question whether Mrs Trump had plans to make financial gains from her position as first lady.

A second version of the suit, re-filed weeks later, dropped the controversial wording.

Mrs Trump was born Melanija Knavs, in Sevnica, a small town about an hour’s drive from Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana.

She was signed to a modelling agency in her late teens, and began flying around Europe and the US, appearing in high-profile ad campaigns.

She met Donald Trump in 1998, when she was 28 years old, at a party during New York Fashion week.

They married seven years later.

(h/t BBC News)

Trump Lawyers Go After to Teen Who Operates Site That Shows Kittens Punching Him

A new report indicates that Donald Trump‘s lawyers have gone after a teen who operates a gag site.

Interestingly, the report is from the Observer, which is owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Perhaps more interesting — the site that received the cease and desist order is one that shows the president being punched by kittens. We’d link to the site, but one of the URLs leads to a 404 error message and the other now leads to porn, courtesy of an opportunistic entrepreneur of some sort.

Anyway, it was created by a 17-year-old girl identified as Lucy. Lucy loves to code and created the site as a “fun little” project to show off her technical skills. The teen had this to say:

I was going to just let this go, but I think it’s, pardon my French, fucking outrageous that the President of the United States has his team scouring the internet for sites like mine to send out cease and desists and legal action claims if we don’t shut down. Meanwhile, he tweets about The Apprentice ratings and sends out power-drunk tweets about phone tapping. HOW ABOUT BEING THE PRESIDENT?

When The Hollywood Reporter caught up to her, Lucy said, “I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance.”

Litigation is common for the First Family. Melania Trump has sued over reports she was once an escort. Notably, she went after a 69-year-old blogger.

(h/t Mediate)

Terror Expert Critical of Trump Advisor Was Threatened Legal Action By White House

An embattled White House terrorism advisor whose academic credentials have come under widespread fire telephoned one of his main critics at home Tuesday night and threatened legal action against him, Newsweek has learned.

Sebastian Gorka, whose views on Islam have been widely labeled extremist, called noted terrorism expert Michael S. Smith II in South Carolina and expressed dismay that Smith had been criticizing him on Twitter, according to a recording of the call provided to Newsweek.

“I was like a deer in the headlights,” Smith, a Republican who has advised congressional committees on the use of social media by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, tells Newsweek. “I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.”

Gorka apparently used his personal cell phone, with a northern Virginia area code, rather than making the call from his White House office or government-issued cell phone, where it would be officially logged, Smith says. The terrorism expert says he suspected Gorka “was trying to conceal the call.”

Smith says he did not begin recording the call until after Gorka allegedly threatened to sue Smith. In an email to Newsweek, Smith said that, “Gorka asserted my tweets about him merited examination by the White House legal counsel. In effect, he was threatening to entangle me in a legal battle for voicing my concerns on Twitter that he does not possess expertise sufficient to assist the president of the United States with formulating and guiding national security policies.”

Gorka did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Smith has been a regular contributor to think tank and TV discussions on terrorism, particularly the use of social media by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group. Last year Foreign Policy magazine included him in its list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers.”

Smith has kept up a steady stream of jabs at Gorka since he learned that the Hungarian born, British-educated terrorism specialist had been hired by President Donald Trump’s top adviser Steve Bannon. Both Bannon and Gorka came from the far-right Breitbart News, where Bannon was editor-in-chief and Gorka was national security editor. On his Twitter page, Gorka describes himself as “deputy assistant to the 45th president of America” and an “Irregular Warfare Strategist.”

His views on the “global jihadist movement,” as he calls it, align with a small cadre of right-wing observers who depict Islamist militants and extremists as being driven principally by passages from the Koran, rather than by government repression, or sectarian, tribal, political or economic factors.

On Tuesday, Smith tweeted that Gorka “doesn’t know the enemies’ ideologies well enough to combat them.” In an earlier tweet directed at Trump, Smith wrote: “You are endangering the lives of Americans by hiring fake ‘terrorism experts.’”

Gorka earned his doctorate from a Hungarian university in 2008 and “a few months later landed a faculty job at the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), a new Pentagon-funded school that was still working toward accreditation,” The Washington Post reported. According to an online biography, he is also an associate fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, at the U.S. Special Operations Command, and holds the Major General Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University Foundation, which was funded by Thomas Saunders III, a major Republican Party donor and chairman of the conservative Heritage Foundation. The program’s current director, James Howcroft, also a retired Marine colonel, told Politico that Gorka only “periodically delivered lectures or served as a seminar leader.”

The White House advisor was clearly wounded by Smith’s taunts. “Why is this vitriol popping out of you, every day now?” Gorka asked Smith in his call. ”I look at your Twitter feed once or twice a day and it’s half a dozen tweets about me, and I’ve never even met you.”

“Wow,” Smith responded. “Are you defeating jihad by monitoring or trolling my Twitter feed?”

Gorka expressed puzzlement several times that he was being attacked “by someone who’s never met me.”

“I’ve never met you and I’ve never attacked you,” he said to Smith, his voice rising in frustration and anger. “And your Twitter feed is an incessant berating of my professional acumen. Put yourself in my shoes, Mr. Smith. Have you done that? How would you like it if someone you’ve never met, daily and professionally attacked you?”

“Happens all the time,” Smith responded. Generally speaking, academics and journalists laboring in the field of public policy expect to be criticized for their views.

“It’s not happened to me,” Gorka said, “I can tell you. Maybe you can show me some trick on how you deal with it. This is the first time ever.”

In fact, questions about Gorka’s views and credentials to speak authoritatively on Islam and terrorism were severely criticized in lengthy feature articles in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in recent days. He also received a wave of unfavorable publicity in January 2016 when he was arrested for trying to pass through a TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. carrying a loaded handgun. He was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to six months probation.

One of his most influential critics is Cindy Storer, a leading former CIA expert on the relationship between religious extremism and terrorism.

“He thinks the government and intelligence agencies don’t know anything about radicalization, but the government knows a lot and thinks he’s nuts,” Storer was quoted as saying in the Post.

Smith asked Gorka why he didn’t telephone Storer, “who called you nuts in the Washington Post,” to complain. Gorka responded that Storer’s remark wasn’t “in a Twitter feed that is being sent to people on Capitol Hill.”

Gorka’s scholarship has also come under scrutiny by Mia Bloom, an expert on “transcultural violence” at Georgia State University. “He doesn’t understand a fraction of what he pretends to know about Islam,” Bloom was quoted as saying by the Journal. Bloom has participated in TV appearances with Gorka and at a panel last year at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Nor has Gorka—who does not speak Arabic and has never lived in a Muslim-majority nation, according to news accounts—submitted any of his articles for review in scholarly journals, says Lawrence P. Rubin, associate editor of Terrorism and Political Violence, the leading journal in that field.

“Gorka has not submitted anything to the journal in the last five or so years, according to my records and we have never used him as a reviewer,” Rubin tells Newsweek. “We would not have used him as a reviewer because he is not considered a terrorism expert by the academic or policy community.”

A government expert on Middle East radical movements, who asked not to be named for fear of being fired, tells Newsweek she was disturbed to hear Gorka suggest at a talk he gave in Israel a few years ago that he knew of a “specific person in the [Obama White House] who was deliberately misleading the government” on terrorism issues. “He said he wouldn’t name the person on stage but would provide the particulars” privately to anyone there who wanted to know, she said. Noting the audience was full of potential adversaries, she called Gorka’s remark “‘beyond the pale.”

Several times during his call with Smith, Gorka invited him to the White House to hash out their differences “face to face, man to man,” as he put it in one exchange. They set a tentative date for March 8.

But Smith warned Gorka that “in absolute fairness to you, what you will hear is that I have very serious concerns about our national security,” and in particular Gorka’s role “as an adviser to the president of the United States.”

“If you make a devastating case, then so be it,” Gorka said.

“So be it?” Smith answered. “Then what, you’ll acknowledge you’re out of your league?”

Yeah, absolutely,” Gorka said. “Bring it on.”

Late Wednesday, Gorka withdrew his invitation.

“Given your statements for the latest attack piece and continued disparaging Tweets against not only myself but the administration and the President,” Gorka wrote Smith, “consider your invitation to meet withdrawn.”

Media

Melania Trump Plans to Cash-in on Trademarks, Files New Lawsuit

First lady Melania Trump said in a lawsuit Monday that her lucrative personal brand was damaged by an online article that alleged she worked as an escort in the 1990s.

The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court, said the Mail Online, in its August article hit just as Trump was about to enter the White House and embark on a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person.”

More explicitly, the suit claims the article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

It references several pending “multi-million dollar business relationships” for clothing, shoes, jewelry cosmetics and perfume.

Indeed, records show the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a trademark to “MELANIA” in 2013 for cosmetics.

On Jan. 17, just days before the inauguration, the office signed off on protecting “MELANIA” for a line of jewelry. Both are held by solely by Melania Trump and registered to her address in Trump Tower.

Trademarks protect words, names and symbols for goods and services that are tied to the source of those goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.

The Mail Online retracted its article and faced another defamation suit from Trump, which was dismissed in Maryland last week.

Trump also sued Maryland blogger Webster Tarpley, who made similar claims about the first lady’s past. Tarpley agreed to apologize and provide a “substantial sum” in a settlement reached Tuesday, said Donna McBride, Trump’s Maryland-based attorney.

Beverly Hills attorney Charles Harder issued a statement on behalf of Trump, along with the retraction from Tarpley on Tuesday:

“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her. I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”

In a bid to dismiss the case, attorneys for Tarpley mounted a SLAPP defense — arguing it was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation since it inhibited Tarpley’s First Amendment rights to free speech. Maryland, like many other states, has an anti-SLAPP law to prevent those suits.

That law became an issue for Donald Trump in his threats against outspoken critics before and during the campaign.

Tarpley’s attorney’s argued since Melanie Trump is a public figure, the bar for defamation is much higher and requires “actual malice.”

(h/t USA Today)

Trump Preps for Presidency as He Attempts to Sue a Painter Out of Business

After his election, Donald Trump quickly settled a series of business disputes — but just days before his inauguration, the president-elect’s company is still waging a legal battle against a Florida shop owner over an unpaid bill.

The matter could have been settled for what amounts to pocket change for a billionaire, but the Trump Organization decided to take its chances in court.

Now Trump stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if he wins, it could force a small businessman — one of hundreds who say they were stiffed by Trump over the years — possibly into bankruptcy.

That businessman, Juan Carlos Enriquez, owner of The Paint Spot, won the first round of the legal skirmish last summer when a judge found a lien he slapped on the Trump National Doral golf resort was valid.

The court ordered Trump to pay for $32,000 worth of paint, plus nearly $300,000 in legal fees. Trump’s company appealed, and barring a last-minute resolution, the case will be pending when he takes office; the deadline for final briefs is two days before he becomes the most powerful person in America.

Enriquez’s lawyer, Daniel Vega, said he is not surprised it has gone this far.

“The Trump litigation team litigated this case from day one like lions on fresh meat and continue to do so now on appeal,” he told NBC News.

The matter dates back to the fall of 2013 when Enriquez, who owns three Miami paint stores, was tapped by a subcontractor to supply paint for a major remodeling project at the Doral resort, owned and operated by a Trump company called Trump Endeavor.

There is no dispute that the paint was delivered and used on the property, according to court records. But after the subcontractor walked off the job weeks before completion, Enriquez didn’t get a final payment.

In a deposition, a project manager for general contractor Straticon testified that he failed to get the Trump Organization to pay the balance.

“Were you trying to pay him,” Vega asked the manager, Jamie Gram, during the sessions.

“I was,” Gram replied.

“And what happened?”

“Somebody chose not to,” Gram said.

“Who?” the lawyer asked.

“The Trump Organization,” Gram said.

“Who at Trump?”

“I don’t know,” Gram said. “Mr. Trump. Donald Trump.”

In October 2014, Enriquez filed a lien — a legal tool that can be used to recover a debt by tying up a piece of property — against Doral.

Eight months later, Enriquez filed a lawsuit against Trump Endeavor, seeking to foreclose on the 800-acre resort.

The Trump team’s defense was largely technical.

It turned out that when Enriquez took the job he submitted paperwork called a Notice to Owner, which would allow him to file a lien against the property if a bill wasn’t paid.

A Trump official gave him a form to work off — but it listed the general contractor for a different part of the project, and Enriquez repeated the mistake on his notice.

Gram later noticed and flagged the error. Enriquez said he would fix it but never did, court documents show.

At trial, though, Gram testified that the decision not to pay Enriquez “had nothing to do with a defective notice to owner.”

He went on to explain that the bill went unpaid because the Trump Organization had already paid “a decent amount of money” to the subcontractor, M&P, before it abandoned the job. The resort used any money left over, plus additional funds, to complete the unfinished paint job, he said.

Gram’s testimony appeared to distress Trump’s legal team, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jorge Cueto noted in his June 2016 ruling.

“When Mr. Gram made that admission, Trump’s trial attorneys visibly winced, began breathing heavily and attempted to make eye contact with him,” the judge wrote.

The judge found that Enriquez had made “diligent efforts” to comply with the lien law and that being given the wrong paperwork by the Trump official was the root of the mistake. He also dismissed Trump clams that the bill was fraudulent, subtracting only $76.39 for a stepladder from the bottom line.

Cueto then dealt the Trump team a bigger blow, ruling that they had to pay Enriquez’s legal costs. Because Vega had taken the case on contingency, meaning he would not get paid if they lost, the judge tacked on a multiplier to compensate him for the risk he took, nearly doubling the award to $283,949.91.

“Trump elected to fight this case ‘tooth and nail’ instead of resolving it for a reasonable amount, driving up Paint Spot’s litigation fees and costs,” the judge explained.

The Trump trial attorneys did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the Trump Organization’s general counsel. The attorney handling the appeal, Bruce Rogow, did not respond to a question about who should have paid Enriquez for the paint used at Doral.

“Florida Statutes on liens are very specific and the appeal seeks to enforce those statutes which would mean that there was no valid lien to begin with and therefore the plaintiff was not entitled to any relief,” he wrote in an email. “That really is all that is at issue.”

Rogow did not respond to a question about whether the president-elect was personally involved in the decision to appeal the judgement. A spokesperson for Trump also did not respond to questions from NBC News.

Vega said he is confident The Paint Spot will win the appeal. But if he loses, he said, Enriquez could be saddled with Trump legal fees and might face bankruptcy. Trump’s attorney declined to say whether they would seek to recoup the legal fees.

Despite the stakes, Vega said he and his client were not afraid to take on the litigious billionaire.

“The Paint Spot is also owned by a proud small business owner… and he felt and we agreed that he was right factually and legally and therefore, we both decided to take on the risk,” Vega said.

(h/t NBC News)

Trump Suggests Curtailing First Amendment

During an interview with CBS Miami, Donald Trump said he’d like to change the nature of the First Amendment in order to make it easier to file libel lawsuits against the media.

Trump spoke with Jim DeFede on Sunday, and he was asked about whether he feels that “too much protection” is given to the free press. Trump affirmed his belief on this issue, stating that America should lean towards the United Kingdom’s system for libel because it gives people who sue media agencies “a good chance of winning.”

“Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it. And I think we should go to a system where if they do something wrong… I’m a big believer tremendous believer of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me but if they make terrible, terrible mistakes and those mistakes are made on purpose to injure people. I’m not just talking about me I’m talking anybody else then yes, I think you should have the ability to sue them.”

Under English law, defamatory statements are assumed to be false, and the burden of proof lies with the defendant to show that their statement is true. While Trump talked about this system, Trump said that the American press is never compelled to apologize, and that “they can say anything they want about you or me and there doesn’t have to be any apology.”

Trump’s relationship with the media has been complicated to say the very least. Throughout his campaign, Trump blacklisted news agencies for months, ranted about “dishonest” journalists numerous times, and has threatened to expand libel laws as president.

Recently, the litigious Trump has threatened to sue The New York Times for publishing his old tax information. He has also made similar legal threats to sue the women accusing him of sexual abuse, along with media outlets giving them coverage.

(h/t Mediaite)

Media

CBS Miami

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