Commentary

Trump Campaign Has Weak Libel Claim Against 'New York Times'

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign this week filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times that's unlikely to stand up in court. The campaign alleges the newspaper defamed it in a 2019 opinion piece about Russian interference during the last presidential election.

Trump has warned that he would sue news organizations on several occasions, but the lawsuit filed in New York State court marks the first time his campaign has followed through on those threats. It's also quite an escalation in hostilities toward the NYT since the White House canceled its subscription to the newspaper last year.

The lawsuit alleges that an essay titled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” by Max Frankel, who was executive editor of the NYT from 1986 to 1994, made false statements about the campaign to "improperly influence" the upcoming election in November.

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Frankel wrote that the Trump campaign and Russian officials "had an overarching deal" to undermine political rival Hillary Clinton in exchange for a "pro-Russian foreign policy."

He also wrote the Trump campaign didn't do anything illegal by discussing possible changes in U.S. policy toward Russia. The talks "were unseemly at best and clearly offensive to the American convention that we have only one president at a time," according to Frankel.

The Trump campaign faces major legal hurdles not only in refuting Frankel's opinion, but also in seeking "compensatory damages in the millions of dollars." The campaign is arguing the piece was false and defamatory, but the press has wide latitude to publish commentary about public figures — that's the essence of democracy.

If legal precedent is any guide, the case likely will be dismissed.

4 comments about "Trump Campaign Has Weak Libel Claim Against 'New York Times'".
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  1. Jay Goldstein from Independent, February 28, 2020 at 8:47 a.m.

    It wont be dismissed, it will be withdrawn. When campaign realizes NYT will vigorously defend this suite, and then all of this Russia stuff will be on the public record, as they try to steal another election, they will certainly withdraw. They do not want this relitigated, in public.  

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 28, 2020 at 10:05 a.m.

    Odds the crack investigation team at the NYT is working on information to break him in half - so to speak - right now and will spill it all out sometime in September. This death and destruction administration and its minions have dismissed experienced professionals and stuff their gills with toadies in positions they didn't even know existed or just not filled pertinent positions, not to mention making enemies along the way. The WH does not have a lock on people who want fame or fortune either and will spill the beans. No doubt people who have been effected,when the opportunity presents itself, will volunteer information and proof. 

  3. Daniel Ambrose from ambro.com, corp., February 28, 2020 at 12:51 p.m.

    I disagree James.  The point of filing the law suit is to be able to tell their base Frankel's view is a lie.  Why wait a year to file?  So the suit can be in limbo up to the election, while a significant portion of Trumps base doesn't even understand that there is a big difference between filing a suit and proving a suit.

  4. Roger Baker from NAPCO Media, February 28, 2020 at 3:12 p.m.

    Cancelled their NYT subscription -- just means that some poor sod needs to buy it at the newstand every morning. There's no way savvy political operatives would ignore this opinion leader. #OneTimeDCIntern

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