A lawyer representing President Donald Trump and his campaign are threatening to sue CNN over its coverage of the current administration.
“Never in the history of this country has a President been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called 'mainstream' news, as the current situation,” attorney Charles Harder writes to CNN President Jeff Zucker.
In the letter, Harder accuses CNN of violating the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademark infringement as well as false advertising.
“My clients intend to file legal action against you, to seek compensatory damages, treble damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, reimbursement of legal costs, and all other available legal and equitable remedies, to the maximum extent permitted by law,” Harder writes.
Harder cites a recent Project Veritas video, in which an employee alleges that Zucker is biased against Trump.
“Your own employees appear to state that CNN is focused on trying to 'take down President Trump,' driven by a 'personal vendetta' that Mr. Zucker purportedly has against him, rather than reporting the news in an objective manner,” the letter states.
Harder previously represented wrestler Hulk Hogan in his successful invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker, which drove the company into bankruptcy.
It's not clear whether Trump actually plans to follow through with a lawsuit. But some observers are already expressing skepticism that such a suit would get very far.
“If the legal claims in his letter are any indication, I would think CNN will want him to sue and have a court decide this one,” Neal Katyal, acting U.S. Solicitor General during the Obama administration, says on Twitter.
Bob Corn-Revere, a First Amendment attorney who is currently representing Pen America in a lawsuit against Trump, tells MediaPost that Harder's letter doesn't spell out the basis of any potential claims against CNN.
“The president is going to bring a Lanham Act claim against CNN because he doesn't like their reporting?” he says. “It's really hard to follow the thread of it.”
He adds that even a valid Lanham Act claim wouldn't override the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from censoring news organizations.
“Government officials don't get to use the power of civil law to silence critics,” he says.
If Trump does sue, it won't be the first time CNN and the White House have faced off in court. Last year, CNN took the administration to court after the White House revoked journalist Jim Acosta's press credentials.
CNN argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Acosta's First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by the decision to revoke his press pass. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly in the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee, sided with CNN. Kelly ordered the credentials restored on the grounds that the White House failed to give Acosta due process of law when it summarily revoked his press pass.