Last year, ahead of Muller’s investigation into a possible relationship between the Trump administration and Russia, BuzzFeed News published the now famous dossier tying the president and his associates to shady real estate deals, secret meetings and wild nights with prostitutes.
The list of names mentioned in the dossier, partially unsubstantiated, included Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael D. Cohen. On Tuesday, Cohen announced he’s suing both BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS, the firm who commissioned the piece.
In typical Trumpian fashion, Cohen announced the lawsuit on Twitter. The move brings into focus the administration's repeated attacks on freedom of the press.
Just last week, ahead of the publication of Michael Wolff’s tell-all Fire and Fury:Inside the Trump White House, another of the president’s lawyers, Charles Harder, sent a cease-and-desist letter to publisher Henry Holt and Co., claiming the book contained information resulting in "defamation by libel."
Publishers across the board are fighting back.
In response to the letter from Trump’s lawyers, the Holt pushed up the release date. Fire and Fury had sold over 1 million copies by Monday, becoming a best seller.
Following the announcement of the BuzzFeed lawsuit, the publication responded with strong words of its own.
In a New York Times op-ed, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief Ben Smith stated: “We strongly believed that publishing the disputed document, whose existence we and others were reporting, was in the public interest.”
It’s clear the President Trump and his men aren’t content with lawsuits.
In his first cabinet meeting of 2018, Trump partook in on-camera immigration negotiations with bipartisan members of Congress. However, before the meeting concluded, he took the opportunity to speak about libel laws in the U.S. to reporters.
“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace, and do not represent American values or American fairness. … You can’t say things that are false — knowingly false — and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account. We’re going to take a very, very strong look at that. And I think what the American people want to see is fairness," he stated.
One can’t help but see the connection between the president’s off-topic comments and the controversies surrounding him and his associates in the media. Seeing an outlet like BuzzFeed standup to the administration for its editorial decisions is heartening. But the battle between the press and the president will be a long, bloody one.