Trump campaign defamation lawsuit against ‘The Washington Post’ dismissed

Former President Donald Trump’s legal assault on media outlets suffered another court loss Friday, when a federal judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against his 2020 re-election campaign. The Washington Post.

U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Rudolph Contreras governed by That the Trump campaign failed to demonstrate “actual malice” regarding allegedly defamatory statements – sentences from two articles written by The Washington Post Opinion writers Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman. Waldman also had the point, Contreras ruled, securing opinion.

“Only the Trump campaign has failed to support allegations with sufficient veracity A presumption of actual malice,” Contreras wrote, but “the context of [Sargent’s] The allegedly defamatory statement indicates the absence of actual malice.”

Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign has filed multiple lawsuits against media outlets. In February 2020, it case The New York TimesAnd two more cases against CNN And The Washington Post March followed. All of these defamation claims are opinion pieces about the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. Sargent’s part characterized special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia and the Trump 2020 campaign as saying the campaign “tried to collude” with Russia. Waldman’s article contained the allegedly defamatory statement: “Who knows what kind of help Russia and North Korea will give to Trump’s campaign, now that he’s invited them to help?”

In April 2020, the Trump campaign Filed a defamation case In a Wisconsin state court case against WJFW, WJFW, the NBC affiliate in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, claims that a campaign ad produced by a Democrat-affiliated political action committee contained “intentionally false and defamatory statements” about Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trump campaign framed the lawsuits as a strike against habitually dishonest and unfair reporting by major media outlets. His lawsuit against CNN, for example, argued that the network “engaged in a systematic pattern of bias against the campaign, designed to maliciously interfere with and damage its reputation and ultimately cause the organization to fail.”

Trump has repeatedly complained over the years that defamation laws need to be “opened up” to remove the strong protections news outlets have enjoyed from defamation lawsuits since a landmark 1964 Supreme Court case. New York Times v. Sullivan. rule in Sullivan Established that, to prevail on a defamation claim, public figures must show that the publishers knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

In the 2016 campaign, Trump said“I’m going to open up our libel laws so that when they write articles that are purposefully negative and horrible and false, we can sue them and win a lot of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times A complete disrespect or when writing a hit piece The Washington PostWhich is another reason, writes one hit piece, “We can sue them and win money without ever having a chance to win because they’re completely protected.”

In 2018, Trump said again His administration will take a “stronger approach” to defamation laws after his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, filed a defamation suit BuzzFeed News to release a dossier full of lurid claims about the president. “Our current libel law is a fraud and an insult and does not represent American values ​​or American fairness,” Trump said.

But the complaint doesn’t overturn Supreme Court precedent, and the Trump campaign’s lawsuits have so far come under fire for failing to comply. SullivanIts high bar.

Lawyers for the Trump campaign have agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against a Wisconsin television station. Federal judges dismissed Trump campaign sues CNN And The New York TimesBoth found — as did Contreras — that the campaign’s sweeping and conclusive allegations of political bias failed to meet the constitutional standard for actual malice.

The post The case is not dead yet. Trump’s lawyers have the option to file an amended complaint. But it’s an option they didn’t take in earlier court defeats.

Rather than showing the unfairness of the strong current standard for defamation, Trump’s abject failure in court shows why that standard is necessary: ​​to protect political speech and opinion writing from retaliation by powerful people.