Attacks on the Press | Defamation

President Trump Files Third Defamation Lawsuit, Targets CNN

CNN
A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump shows his shirt that says “CNN is fake news” while waiting in line to attend a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed a libel suit against CNN for an opinion piece published in June 2019 that argued that former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller should have charged the Trump campaign with obstruction of justice.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, the lawsuit claims that Larry Noble, a law professor and campaign finance expert, falsely claimed in a CNN op-ed that Trump’s campaign had “assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020.”

The lawsuit marks the president’s third defamation complaint against a media company in just ten days. The president’s re-election campaign sued The New York Times on February 26th and The Washington Post on March 2nd. 

The article at the center of Trump’s lawsuit against the Times, also an op-ed, was published in March 2019 and focuses on the long relationship between Trump’s inner circle and Russian officials. Former Executive Editor of the Times Max Frankel uses this relationship to argue that Mueller didn’t need proof of a “detailed collusion” because “the known facts about the communications between Russians and the Trump campaign … reveals itself.”

The other three opinion pieces (the lawsuit against The Post concerns two essays) were published in June 2019 and critique Trump’s apparent willingness to accept foreign aid in the 2020 election. They draw from statements Trump made in an interview with ABC News when he was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos as to whether, if he was offered information about his opponents from Russia or China, he would accept it or call the FBI. 

“I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, “we have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump told Stephanopoulos. 

Trump’s re-election campaign also makes sweeping statements about the political leanings of the respective media institution. 

In Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v The New York Times

“It is not entirely surprising that The Times would publish such a blatant false attack against the Campaign. There is extensive evidence that The Times is extremely biased against the Campaign, and against Republicans in general. This evidence includes, among other things, the fact that The Times has endorsed the Democrat in every United States presidential election of the past sixty (60) years…”

In Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v The Washington Post 

“It is not surprising that The Post would publish such blatant false attacks against the Campaign. There is extensive evidence that The Post is extremely biased against the Campaign, and against Republicans in general. This evidence includes, among other things, the fact that The Post has endorsed the Democrat in every United States presidential election since it started endorsing a presidential candidate in 1976…”

In Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. CNN

“CNN has engaged in a systematic pattern of bias against the Campaign, designed to maliciously interfere with and damage its reputation and ultimately cause the organization to fail.” 

In a post on Twitter, Jameel Jaffer, the Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, posited the lawsuits were not designed to make it to trial, rather to erode public trust in the press.

“These suits will likely fail in court but in the meantime they’ll gratify Trump’s base, distract the press and public, and deter speech and journalism that are vital to our democracy. That’s presumably the point,” he wrote on March 6th. 

Like his complaint against The Times and The Washington Post, the lawsuit against CNN asks for compensatory damages “in the millions of dollars.”

The Guardian Complaint


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