Trump Campaign Files Laughably Stupid SLAPP Suit Over A NY Times Opinion Piece

from the not-how-any-of-this-works dept

Welp, Donald Trump promised to “open up libel laws” back when he was first running for President, and his campaign has now decided to test out some moronic theory of defamation in suing the NY Times over an opinion piece. Just to be clear upfront: the lawsuit is bad. It will not succeed and appears to have no intent to succeed. Instead, it appears to be almost entirely performative — including the kind of text you’d normally see on a political website, rather than in a lawsuit filed by a serious lawyer. But, hey, this one is filed by Charles Harder, who has a bit of a history of filing such lawsuits (including against me!).

Everything about this lawsuit is silly. First, it’s suing over an opinion piece published by the NY Times in March of 2019 by Max Frankel. Just the fact that it’s an opinion piece (opinions are not defamatory) should give you a sense of where this is going. The article itself, entitled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” makes a pretty banal observation: that whether or not there was any direct “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it doesn’t matter if both sides expected certain outcomes (i.e., if Trump’s campaign expected the Russians to help get him elected, and if the Russian’s expected that Trump would favor pro-Russia policies — then there would be no need for actual direct communication between the two). Whether or not you think that’s an accurate summation of what happened, it’s certainly an understandable opinion for one to hold.

But, Trump and Harder try to argue that this opinion is not true. But everything about the argument made in the lawsuit is silly.

The Defamatory Article does not allege or refer to any proof of its claims of a ?quid pro quo? or ?deal? between the Campaign and Russia. Rather, the Defamatory Article selectively refers to previously-reported contacts between a Russian lawyer and persons connected with the Campaign. The Defamatory Article, however, insinuates that these contacts must have resulted in a quid pro quo or a deal, and the Defamatory Article does not acknowledge that, in fact, there had been extensive reporting, including in The Times, that the meetings and contacts that the Defamatory Article refers to did not result in any quid pro quo or deal between the Campaign and Russia, or anyone connected with either of them.

But, if you read the actual Times piece (which is quite short), it doesn’t allege any actual deal. Indeed, it says right up front that there didn’t need to be a deal. Literally the 1st paragraph of Frankel’s piece lays out the lack of any need for an explicit quid pro quo, highlighting that merely having everyone know what to expect is more than enough.

Collusion ? or a lack of it ? turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump?s pursuers. 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.

That’s not insinuating a deal. It’s doing the opposite — saying that a deal wasn’t needed.

But the lawsuit assumes an entirely different interpretation. Even worse, its “proof” that the NY Times must know this reporting is false is the Mueller report that came out three weeks after the article was published. How was the NY Times supposed to know the details of a classified report nearly a month early in an opinion piece? That is left as a mystery for the ages. The Times piece was published on March 27th. As the filing admits, the Mueller report wasn’t released until April 18th.

The Times? story is false. The falsity of the story has been confirmed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller?s Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election released on or about April 18, 2019 (the ?Mueller Report?), and many other published sources, that there was no conspiracy between the Campaign and Russia in connection with the 2016 United States Presidential Election, or otherwise. Among other things, there was no ?deal,? and no ?quid pro quo,? between the Campaign or anyone affiliated with it, and Vladimir Putin or the Russian government.

Indeed, Harder tries to argue that the reason the NY Times put this piece out prior to the Mueller report was that it somehow knew the Mueller report would prove the article wrong. Which, of course, it did not. The whole case seems to be based on Harder and/or the Trump campaign misreading the Frankel article.

There’s also a lot of garbage in the filing that no serious lawyer would put into a filing, unless it was to appeal to a political base, rather than a judge.

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. Also, Max Frankel, the author of the Defamatory Article, described himself in an interview as ?a Democrat with a vengeance.?

The case has been filed in NY state court, and as Harder well knows, New York has a very limited anti-SLAPP law, meaning that it is unlikely to apply.

Of course, I find it depressingly amusing that this comes the same month that Harder was in court in California on behalf of Donald Trump supporting broad anti-SLAPP laws in a case in which Harder argued that “a defamation standard that turns typical political rhetoric into actionable defamation would chill expression that is central to the First Amendment and political speech.”

The lawsuit is garbage and hopefully the NY Times gets it quickly tossed out, but I guess this means that Harder and Trump’s support for anti-SLAPP laws that protect against these kinds of frivolous lawsuits won’t extend to New York or to a (necessary) federal anti-SLAPP law.

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Comments on “Trump Campaign Files Laughably Stupid SLAPP Suit Over A NY Times Opinion Piece”

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51 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah the 'abusing the courts for cheap PR' con that's all the rage

The lawsuit is garbage and hopefully the NY Times gets it quickly tossed out, but I guess this means that Harder and Trump’s support for anti-SLAPP laws that protect against these kinds of frivolous lawsuits won’t extend to New York or to a (necessary) federal anti-SLAPP law.

Not so, they will absolutely be in favor of an anti-SLAPP law should they get sued and need to use one to avoid costly litigation and recover their costs.

That that support will(and does) vanish the second they are the ones suing someone will of course be a complete and total coincidence, and not at all evidence of their gross hypocrisy and belief that the law exists solely to benefit and protect them and the only speech they think should be protected is that which they say and/or agree with.

That One Wise Guy says:

All you really need to know about the lawsuit is that it wasn’t filed by Trump personally, it was filed by Trump’s campaign. Trump’s not stupid enough to put his own money into this scam but he has no problem whatsoever using his donors’ money. And his lawyers are happy enough to take it – I’m sure they believe in the adage about suckers and even breaks just as much as Trump.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

“Free speech for me but not for thee.”

Of course, I find it depressingly amusing that this comes the same month that Harder was in court in California on behalf of Donald Trump supporting broad anti-SLAPP laws in a case in which Harder argued that "a defamation standard that turns typical political rhetoric into actionable defamation would chill expression that is central to the First Amendment and political speech."

It is also, unfortunately, not all that surprising. Trump and Harder have always been massive hypocrites (especially Trump, who appears to be a hypocrite about almost everything he talks about). I used to be astonished about how much Trump condemns the same free speech protections that he and his supporters heavily depend on for all the BS and hateful speech they spout when it protects others, but eventually it got to the point where I’m more surprised when he actually practices what he preaches on just about any topic.

I was actually far more surprised when Harder of all people chose to use free-speech protections on behalf of Trump than I am that they are turning around and arguing the opposite in this case, and I wasn’t even terribly shocked then. I was initially surprised about how quickly they went back to their normal, but then Trump has a tendency to contradict himself very rapidly, many times in the same sentence.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Purpose...

The right wing nutjobs (read: Trump supporters) actually believe that is the case. All they’re actually doing is driving the partisan wedge deeper between the democrats and republicans, resulting in even worse partisanship and bad politics. People like David above are the real problem.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Purpose...

By calling people who support Trump, right wing nutjobs, you are driving a wedge between the parties. Stop assuming that everyone who votes differently than you is a moron and you might start to understand why people vote differently. Keep assuming everyone who votes differently is a moron and you will literally never figure out why you keep losing and why the country is becoming more and more divides.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Purpose...

Keep assuming everyone who votes differently is a moron and you will literally never figure out why you keep losing and why the country is becoming more and more divides.

You’re not stupid because you vote differently.

You’re stupid because you act fucking stupid by responding positively to stupid shit.

And I’m not going to appease you by not referring to a moron as a moron. I call it like it is – certainly as a trump supporter, you can relate to that.

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Anonymous Coward says:

The whole Russia thing has been proven to be a load of B.S. Making up non-stop lies about Trump, they should be sued.

How about some real FACTS, Real, Evidence to back up the garbage, Opinion you are telling people who then think this stuff is true based on the person’s TDS. Because of people like him, many dumb Americans still think Trump is working with Russia and Russia with Trump. It’s a load of crap. The Muller Report said as much. This you have Hillary who is out there saying this crap also, and then throwing others like Bernie under the exact same bus as Trump. It seems to be the new Leftist boogieman these days. Russia, Russia, Russia.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This you have Hillary who is out there saying this crap also, and then throwing others like Bernie under the exact same bus as Trump.

Would that be the same Hillary that you morons were going to lock up, but haven’t in 3+ years? Because you guys used to chant that like chimps hitting a feed bar for a peanut. I always found it comical to watch.

I was hoping he’d be able to deliver on it since I’ve been hearing that a Clinton would be going to jail for north of 25 years now. But alas, he’s the same limp dick as the rest of the republicans, amirite?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

The Mueller report couldn’t find hard evidence of coördination, collusion, or whatever you want to call it between the Trump campaign and Russia. That much is true.

But it did come to the following conclusions:

  • Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election
  • the Trump campaign welcomed the interference (and the expected benefits thereof)
  • the investigation was stymied by missing/encrypted documents and false/incomplete/denied testimony
  • there were ten instances during Trump’s presidency that he/his administration allegedly obstructed the investigation

And here’s the kicker quote from Volume II of the report: “[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Maybe you should read the actual Mueller report instead of relying on Fox News or Breitbart — or Trump, for that matter — to tell you what is and isn’t in the report.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I think he means the one that all the folks on the Left mocked Mitt Romney for being soooo obviously out of touch when he said that Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat America was currently facing."

And back when he said it, it might have been out of touch. Russia under Yeltzin wasn’t a threat. Falling apart, with a jovial drunk at the helm, and with a political landscape every bit as reckt as Dresden post-WW2.

Russia under Putin is as much a threat as Putin wants it to be though. I’d argue that if China owns the economic advantage, Russia has the military and intel advantage.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"How about some real FACTS, Real, Evidence to back up the garbage…"

You mean like the "Birther" movement trump launched his campaign on? THAT sort of fact?

Or the actual Mueller report which doesn’t, in fact, read the way Trump’s own sock puppet "summarized" it? And through which a number of Trumps adherents have already been arrested for?

"many dumb Americans still think Trump is working with Russia and Russia with Trump."

Trump is actually on record as working with Russia.
Ironically Putin has been far more closemouthed which is why there’s no recorded evidence of Putin admitting to working with Trump.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"…and was Obama’s SLAPP of the week also moronic?"

You mean the one which never happened?

Obama asked, without rancor, a news station not to publish deceptive ads.

What is moronic closely describes a Trump fanatic who has to invent and reconstruct factual reality before he can make his argument.

This may come as a shock to you but just because Obama happens to be black doesn’t mean he’s automatically guilty of every crime in the book.

I realize this isn’t an intuitive understanding for the pro-Trump birther brigade who think Hawaii is an islamic country located somewhere in Africa.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

NY has limited anti-SLAPP law

New York has a very limited anti-SLAPP law,

I can barely spell NY and have limited knowledge of its law. But I have seen such things in other areas. So, it is hard not to ask:

Does New York have a decent offer-of-judgment law? If so, you may achieve a substantial portion of the benefits without having an anti-SLAPP law.

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