Trump Campaign Suing All His Media 'Enemies': Files Another Silly SLAPP Suit Over CNN Opinion Piece

from the opening-up-our-libel-laws dept

Just as the country starts dealing with what the hell it's going to be doing about Covid19, the President and his campaign have decided that now is the time to file laughable SLAPP suits against every one of the media entities on his usual thin-skinned enemies list. First it was the NY Times, then it was the Washington Post, and on Friday, it was the third in his triumvirate of media he loves to hate: CNN. As with the first two, this is yet another Charles Harder joint, and, as with the first two, this is suing over an opinion piece. Also, as with the first two, this is a laughably vexatious lawsuit, in which he is assaulting the very 1st Amendment he has sworn an oath to protect and defend.

You can read the CNN opinion piece that the campaign is suing about. It's by Larry Noble, the former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, and is similar in many ways to the pieces he sued about in the Washington Post, arguing that an interpretation of the Mueller report in a manner displeasing to the President is somehow defamatory. That's ridiculous and everyone involved in this lawsuit should be embarrassed.

On or about June 13,2019, CNN published an article on the www.CNN.com website entitled "Soliciting dirt on your opponents from a foreign government is a crime. Mueller should have charged Trump campaign officials with it" by Larry Noble (the "Defamatory Article"). The Defamatory Article claims, among other things, that the 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." The Defamatory Article does not cite to any facts or reasoning in support of this claim.

The Defamatory Article is false. In fact, the Campaign has repeatedly and openly disclaimed any intention to seek Russian involvement in the 2020 election. The examples of this are too numerous to fully enumerate, but examples include: (a) then-Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated on August 2,2078 that "[s]ince the beginning of his administration, President Trump has implemented a whole-of-government approach to safeguard our nation's elections. The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation-state or other dangerous actor"; (b) on September 12, 2018, while signing an executive order imposing sanctions on foreign countries who interfere in United States elections, the White House issued a statement that "the United States will not tolerate any form of foreign meddling in our elections"; and (c) on May 13, 2019, the White House stated it would not use any information hacked or stolen by foreign adversaries in the 2020 election.

Contrary to this summary in the complaint, if you read the actual article by Noble, he clearly cites the basis for his arguments, and clearly lays out the facts on which he bases his opinion. Indeed, he cites some very specific details and the specific law he is talking about. Here's just a snippet, but it goes much further in details in the article.

During the meeting, held in Trump Tower, Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort were told that two brothers who "had engaged in tax evasion and money laundering" had donated to the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign. According to the report, "Trump Jr. asked follow-up questions about how the alleged payments could be tied specifically to the Clinton Campaign," but was told that the Russians "could not trace the money once it entered the United States." Apparently, not impressed with the information, Kushner "became aggravated and asked, "(W)hat are we doing here?'" The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), 52 U.S.C. §30121(a)(1), prohibits foreign nationals from "directly or indirectly" contributing "money or other thing of value" in connection with any US election. Another part of the law prohibits a person from "knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving contributions or donations from foreign nationals." If a person acts knowingly and willfully, meaning with general knowledge that their actions were unlawful, and the value of the contribution is $2,000 or more, it is a criminal violation. If the value is $25,000 or more, it is a felony.

When Trump Jr. replied he loved it to the offer of free Russian opposition research intended to help his father win the election, and then attended a meeting that included Kushner and Manafort to receive that information, he solicited an illegal contribution from a foreign government.

This is not some random tossed off argument -- nor does it come anywhere even remotely close to meeting the necessary bar for defamation.

Once again, the intent is likely performative -- rallying Trump's base against the media as we head into election season -- rather than with any legitimate basis in law.

This case has been filed in federal court in Georgia, home of CNN. Some may note that Georgia actually has a semi-decent anti-SLAPP law, but unfortunately (and, I believe, incorrectly as a matter of law), the 11th Circuit is one of those that has said that state anti-SLAPP laws do not apply in federal court (in fact, it did so in a case involving CNN -- Carbone v. CNN, if you're keeping track). That means, CNN won't be able to make use of the anti-SLAPP law to get the case kicked out quickly, and to have the Trump campaign pay attorneys' fees.

As with the other two cases, this one is being brought on behalf of the campaign, rather than Donald Trump himself as a party. Whether or not this limits Trump's own liability -- or his exposure to potential discovery requests -- will be an interesting element to watch as these (and any other) cases move forward.

Either way, between these Harder/Trump campaign suits and the various Steven Biss/Devin Nunes suits, it appears that the Republican party is quickly positioning itself as the party of chilling effects and silencing a free press. This is shameful behavior and should be called out as such.

Filed Under: 11th circuit, 1st amendment, anti-slapp, charles harder, defamation, donald trump, free speech, georgia, larry noble, opinions, slapp
Companies: at&t, cnn, time warner


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:44am

    As with the other two cases, this one is being brought on behalf of the campaign, rather than Donald Trump himself as a party.

    Anyone who thinks Trump didn’t give even an implicit thumbs-up for these lawsuits is only fooling themselves, though.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:49am

      Re:

      I wonder if he'll claim he "didn't know these people" when this whole endeavor goes south.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re:

        He's going to be sporting about it, and give the FAKE NEWS DEEP STATE CRISIS ACTORS time to go back into the past and plant pictures of him spending time with the persons in question, and write tweets that indicate that he knows them and thinks they're very good (THE BEST) people, first.

        Just like they've done with all of the other people Trump has disavowed ever knowing.

        I hate that this is necessary, but:
        /s

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

    • icon
      deadspatula (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      The quoted line has nothing to do with Trump's awareness of the suit. Trump's campaign is a legally distinct entity from Trump himself, and therefore if the lawsuit goes long enough for discovery, document requests to trump himself may be limited in scope. Not because Trump was unaware of the lawsuit, but because his exposure may be limited to his interactions with his 2016 campaign and his 2020 campaign. The contested statements specify Trump Campaign Officials, so the campaign is the aggrieved party, and Trump's documents relating to himself personally or communications with non-campaign officials probably aren't in the scope. We may even see issues with Trump's communications with campaign officials by non-campaign funded means. As much as we would hope that the courts would recognize that Trump's web of overlapping orgs represents a way to dodge discovery of communications, it may be effective. And even if it isn't, any such discovery would represent months if not years of litigation before they were settled.

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

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 15 Mar 2020 @ 12:53am

        Re: Re: [discovery]

        Trump's campaign is a legally distinct entity from Trump himself, and therefore if the lawsuit goes long enough for discovery, ...

        Well, that may not be entirely true. The suit alleges that the entity ``operates [Trump's campaign'', and in at least one state the entity listed Trump as being the organization's president.

        Suit alleges also that the offending material was published in June of 2019. Virginia lists a change of officers in July 2019, but that may be too late to remove Trump from being an official at the time.

        I seem to recall some statements by Trump that he welcomed opposition research from Norway. There is some possibility that he welcomed such research from other sources. Of course my vague memory is a poor substitute for evidence.

        It may be difficult to move the suit forward without dismissal if Trump cannot be deposed. However, it is not my file, and I am not prepared to offer advice as to a Georgia case.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:23am

    Trump swearing to uphold the constitution...
    "Fuck that!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:24am

    If this lawsuit holds water then everything Trump has ever said publicly should be actionable against him.

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

    • identicon
      David, 9 Mar 2020 @ 2:48pm

      Re:

      The First Amendment (like all of the Bill of Rights) protects citizens from the government when making statements that are either correct or incorrect. The government does not need the First Amendment for lying to its citizens.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 11:45am

    Stop election interference from the future!

    ... on September 72,2078, while signing an executive order ...

    Over half a century from now, when the months of September, October, and November have been rolled up to make a super-month ...

    So Trump has a time machine, that we are hearing the news today.
    And he is receiving dicta from his own Head-In-A-Jar who is still president 58 years in the future.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 1:28pm

      Re: Stop election interference from the future!

      Yeah, someone (either Techdirt or the court) needs better OCR software if it's reading 1s as 7s.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 11:54am

    'We support a free press... when it agrees with us.'

    Either way, between these Harder/Trump campaign suits and the various Steven Biss/Devin Nunes suits, it appears that the Republican party is quickly positioning itself as the party of chilling effects and silencing a free press.

    More than that, it shows the complete and utter contempt they hold for that pesky 'constitution' and first amendment rights, in start contrasts to any claims to the contrary. When you weaponize the courts in an attempt to silence and/or punish critics you don't get to expect to be taken seriously if you then try to portray yourself as dedicated to upholding or even respecting the constitution.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    fallen prey, 9 Mar 2020 @ 4:20pm

    subjective fake news

    Hey Masnick
    This is the one and only time so far i have to call you out for falling for the fake news media lies. Trump is a liability yes, but the news outlets have never let up on trying to label him all sorts of gross and malicious names and assign things to him that don't belong, although a lot of other things are applicable, the news media refuse to discuss truth but only their version of rubbish. Yes Trump should be hauled over the coals for a lot of things, No Trump shouldnt have to put up with the fake media trashing his reputation with false and malicious lies.

    Regards Fallen Prey

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 5:01pm

      the news outlets have never let up on trying to label him all sorts of gross and malicious names

      Which names, specifically, aren’t at least partially accurate, given his history of…

      • bankruptcies

      • failed businesses

      • extramarital affairs

      • support for “birtherism”

      • racist rhetoric

      • sexist rhetoric

      • xenophobic rhetoric

      • anti-queer policy positions

      • insulting invective aimed at his enemies

      • trying to have his enemies investigated and possibly jailed

      • obstructing federal investigations

      …on top of the accusations of sexual assault/misconduct levied at him, including a withdrawn (but still believable) accusation that he raped one of his wives and his own comments about grabbing women by their genitals without explicit permission?

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:35am

        Re:

        Oh, give the poor guy a break, Stephen. You know perfectly well that none of the items on that list is something the average Trump supporter considers "bad".

        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, 10 Mar 2020 @ 8:57am

          Re: Re:

          Ya, because it's all a bunch of Leftist LIES and half-truths.

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

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 9:47am

            Re: Re: Re:

            [Asserts facts not in evidence]

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 11:23am

            Re: Re: Re:

            Ya, because it's all a bunch of Leftist LIES and half-truths.

            Yeah!!! Just like that Caronavirus thingy! What a bunch of horse shit!
            Fucking democratic hoax!

            I'm sure you're with me when I say "we will continue to lick door knobs, shake hands, and touch everything in sight to own those fucking libs!!!"

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

          • icon
            bhull242 (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:43pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            Like he said, where’s the lie?

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 3:01am

            Re: Re: Re:

            "Ya, because it's all a bunch of Leftist LIES and half-truths."

            It's great you acknowledge that Trump's a liar, bit sadly his public statements of his opinionaren't actionable lies. Just evidence of bigotry.

            How would you interpret Trump's little pre-president nugget of "Never trusting a black man with money." or his description of the actual KKK and neo-nazis at charlottesville as "Very Fine People"?
            He is on public record for his "pussy-grabber" comment. AND his view on women in general, at that.

            I guess by your logic, then, Trump is happily espousing leftist propaganda for the purpose of trying to make the president look like a racist misogynist asshole?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 5:39pm

      Re: subjective fake news

      Weak sauce

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 5:47pm

      Re: subjective fake news

      but the news outlets have never let up on trying to label him all sorts of gross and malicious names and assign things to him that don't belong

      ...This is different from every politician and public figure in history how, exactly?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:41pm

      Re: subjective fake news

      Shockingly, you have provided no examples.

      I wonder why.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:41pm

      Re: subjective fake news

      This is the one and only time so far i have to call you out for falling for the fake news media lies.

      What fake news media lies did I "fall for"?

      news outlets have never let up on trying to label him all sorts of gross and malicious names

      Even if that were true, it would not be defamatory.

      the news media refuse to discuss truth but only their version of rubbish

      I have many, many issues with the nature of news journalism today, but the idea that they "refuse to discuss truth" is nonsense.

      No Trump shouldnt have to put up with the fake media trashing his reputation with false and malicious lies.

      The use of the term "fake media" suggests you're not someone to take seriously. Trump has trashed his own reputation. The articles in question -- literally read the one the campaign is suing over -- are not trashing his reputation and are not even remotely about "false and malicious lies."

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 9:44am

      Re: subjective fake news

      all sorts of gross and malicious names

      Well, as far as that orange spray on tan, that jackass deserves whatever criticism he gets. He's fucking 73 years old, and not fooling a single fucking person with that nonsense. He's an obese, wrinkled, pile of pasty white blubber - and you're not going to polish that turd no matter how much paint you apply to it.

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

  • icon
    Khym Chanur (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:01pm

    How does the Trump campaign have standing to sue for defamation against Trump?

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

  • identicon
    dickeyrat, 10 Mar 2020 @ 2:56am

    Just give us another five or six years of the Blump regime, and we'll then see a cabinet-level (rubber-stamped by the Blump-enabler Senate) Secretary of the Media, who will be charged with approving and propagating those views and "stories" as desired by Our Dear Respected And Beloved Fearless Leader, His Excellency. Some good prospects for the post would include Sean Hannity or Alex Jones, along with some lesser-known top-floating turds in the sewer known as extreme-right-wing talk-radio (Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Bill Cunningham or one of several residing assclowns at Salem come to mind, led by neo-Nazi pal & correspondence-course Ph.D. "Dr." Sebastian Gorka). Any one of them would swell like a puffer-fish with pride at the chance to be the next Goebbels!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 7:53am

    Donald Trump is all about suing others for doing the opposite of the lying he does daily... His complaining about lying would have more impact if he wasn't the real liar here. Hipocrite is truly too small a word to describe his dishonesty.

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 7:57am

    Can someone sue the Trump Campaign for illegally funneling money to Trump family members, including the "girlfriend" of Don Jr.?

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

  • identicon
    Robin, 16 Mar 2020 @ 9:02am

    travel

    Donald Trump is all about suing others for doing the opposite of the lying he does daily... His complaining about lying would have more impact if he wasn't the real liar here.

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


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