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.

Filed Under: anti-slapp, charles harder, defamation, donald trump, max frankel, new york, opinion, quid pro quo, russia, slapp suit
Companies: ny times


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 1:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:27am

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

      I think the sort of anti-SLAPP law they would support would be one that only allows public figures to get protection.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 12:57pm

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

        Only some of them I'm sure, after all can't make his enemies SLAPP-proof as that would 'chill expression that is central to the First Amendment and political speech.'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 27 Feb 2020 @ 3:39am

    Are you sure this wasn't filed on Endor?

    Because it reads as coherently as the Chewbacca Defence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clKi92j6eLE

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 3:50am

    Clearly Harder means that Frankel lied, and that Frankel doesn't hold any of those opinions.

    (I mean that's the only interpretation that even comes close to flirting with sanity)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:17am

      Re:

      Which raises the question as to why they didn't sue Frankel, but sued the NYT instead?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re:

        "Which raises the question as to why they didn't sue Frankel, but sued the NYT instead?"

        I guess this is why they invented quantum physics, because any assertion made by Harder requires multiple mutually incompatible sets of logic to apply all at once.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 7:26am

        Re: Re:

        Student of Steve Dallas?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 6:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Student of Steve Dallas?"

          That...might very well be the case.

          Is it just me or is the fact that a Bloom County caricature of the worst sort of legal weasel closely resembles the real life legal counsel of POTUS absolutely horrifying?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 4:55am

    When he talks about opening up libel laws, I assume it is a one way street in that the common folk will not be allowed to sue the president.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 5:23am

    same old politics

    politicians and government officials have never before used the courts for political purposes... ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 5:30am

    The Trumps never offer any proof of their claims, even when law requires them to. Why would they think they can demand others to be held to a higher standard. Trump himself created this era of proofless claims so he better grow a pair and deal with the consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That One Wise Guy, 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bhull242 (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:23am

    “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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 6:54am

    Does this open up Trump team communications for discovery?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    David Longfellow, 27 Feb 2020 @ 7:17am

    The Purpose...

    ... of the suit is obvious. It is merely to draw attention to the bias of the Democratic party whores at the NYT.

    Looks like it worked great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 7:33am

      Re: The Purpose...

      Looks like it worked great.

      As long as you buy into the assumption that making an ass out of yourself to "own the libs" is progress.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 7:49am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:05am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:08am

            Stop assuming that everyone who votes differently than you is a moron

            I’ll do that when they stop voting for people like Donald Trump.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:46am

              Re:

              Nice, how about allowing the elites to just decide for us. Just like Huff Pro suggested earlier this week.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 4:18am

                Nobody forced GOP voters to vote for a garbage fire of a person with no experience in public office. If they do it again this November, that’s their problem, not mine.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  That One Guy (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 12:02pm

                  Re:

                  If they do it again this November, that’s their problem, not mine.

                  Well, kinda. Much like someone who decides that radioactive waste will make a great fertilizer for their lawn while that particular bit of idiocy is on them the result from that choice is a problem for everyone.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:28am

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

            Although I understand the sentiment (why people vote differently), I would argue actions of the present administration are not defensible.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:33am

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

            ... but not the shithead with the "Democratic party whores" line.

            Riiiight.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:11am

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

            "I did something moronic and people call me a moron! It's so divisive!"

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 3:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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."

            Con's lack of self-awareness is astounding!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 3:19pm

      Re: The Purpose...

      Con chanted "Der Donnie Uber Alles" as she keyboarded that response!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:02am

    But, hey, this one is filed by Charles Harder, who has a bit of a history of filing such lawsuits (including against me!).

    But now he's doing one on behalf of the President! Looks like he's...

    (••)
    ( •
    •) > ⌐■-■
    (⌐■_■)

    trying harder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:15am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:23am

      Re:

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:24am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:32am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      It’s not a lie if you genuinely believe it to be true, and the Mueller Report doesn’t say what you think it does.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 11:46am

      Re:

      "It seems to be the new Leftist boogieman these days. Russia, Russia, Russia."

      You mean the US's principal geopolitical adversary since the end of WW2? The one that many American's used to be reflexively paranoid about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 4:01pm

        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. That Russia.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Mar 2020 @ 3:38am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 12:00pm

      Re:

      It seems to be the new Leftist boogieman these days. Russia, Russia, Russia.

      Tell me about it! You would think with all this paranoia around Russia that we had some kind of Cold War with them for the lion's share of the 20th century.

      What idiots!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 6:15am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 10:08am

    Trump ... Laughably Stupid

    FTFY

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 5:36pm

    and was Obama's SLAPP of the week also moronic? lulz political ads like the one obama is complaining about have been aired forever, what makes him think hes so special?!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 8:31pm

      what makes him think hes so special?

      Those eight years he spent in the White House as the United States’ first Black president.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:00pm

      Re:

      Damnit, that'll teach me to throw out the buzzword bingo card with 'But Obama' on it under the mistaken impression that it had been replaced by some other whataboutism...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 9:08pm

      Re:

      There was no lawsuit. Obama asked TV stations to stop running deceptive ads from the Bloomberg campaign. He and his lawyers presumably know there would be no viable case to be made in a lawsuit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 6:19am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 29 Feb 2020 @ 12:19pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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