On Wednesday, the Trump 2020 campaign filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Times, whining that an opinion piece about Russia and Donald Trump being BFFs wasn't very nice to the Trump campaign.

And yes, it's just as dumb as it sounds.

Donald Trump and his buddy, lawyer Charles Harder, are big fans of using bullshit lawsuits like this to intimidate journalists and use as press releases. They believe they are entitled to abuse the legal system by suing over news they don't like and using their money to silence people who disagree with them. Lawsuits like this one, styled Donald Trump for President v. New York Times, are no more than attempts to use American courts to frighten dissenters into silence.

The op-ed in question, titled "The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo," was written by Max Frankel, former Times executive editor, in March of last year. The first paragraph of the piece sets the tone:

Collusion — or a lack of it — turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump's pursuers. There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin's oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration's burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.

I mean ... seems pretty accurate thus far.

Maybe they made an official "deal," maybe they didn't -- Robert Mueller couldn't prove conspiracy, but part of that was because Trump people like Paul Manafort lied to him and deleted their communications -- but however the sausage was made, it's pretty clear Trump has given Putin a lot of reasons to try to get him re-elected in 2020. (Just like it doesn't matter if Trump said, "I AM DOING A QUID PRO QUO" before doing a quid pro quo to the Ukrainian president.)

The Times, alleges Trump lawyer Harder -- again, whose favorite pastime is trying to stifle free speech by abusing the legal system in this particular way -- knew the allegations in this piece weren't true but published them just to be VERY NOT NICE to Our Dear Leader.

But The Times published these statements anyway, knowing them to be false, and knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers, because of The Times' extreme bias against and animosity toward the Campaign, and The Times' exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020.

Yup, that's right. The opinion page that inexplicably still employs Ross "nofap" Douthat, Bret "bedbug" Stephens, and David "both sides" Brooks just REALLY HATES CONSERVATIVES that much.

I know I sure believe it.

One of my favorite parts of this VERY SERIOUS legal document is the part where it alleges that, by reporting facts in an opinion piece,

The Times has engaged in a systematic pattern of bias against the Campaign, designed to maliciously interfere with and damage its reputation and seek to cause the organization to fail.

The suit repeats well-established (and bullshit) Trump talking points, like

there was no "deal," and no "quid pro quo," between the Campaign or anyone affiliated with it, and Vladimir Putin or the Russian government.


there was no conspiracy between the Campaign and the Russian government[.]

I guess they missed the part where the entire point of the piece they're suing over was that there didn't have to be an explicit agreement for a deal to exist. Far be it from us to question the Trump campaign's powers of reading comprehension, but ...

Anyway, I, for one, am SHOCKED that the Trump campaign and a lawyer known the world over for really hating the First Amendment would file a legal document filled with misrepresentations and half-truths that ignore the words of the very editorial they're suing over.

To support this deranged Trump tweet lawsuit, Team Trump relies on a bunch of things that are completely irrelevant to the claims they're making, like the fact that Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and convicted felon and former Trump 2016 chairman Paul Manafort, to discuss adoptions of BOUNCY RUSSIAN BABIES -- which is code for lifting US sanctions on Russia -- claims she has never worked on behalf of the Russian government.

Yup, this one piece failed to note that a woman whose main career objective has been fighting against Russian sanctions -- and who has been indicted for obstruction of justice in an unrelated case for allegedly working with Russian prosecutors to create a false document -- denies working for Putin.

Welp, I guess that settles the matter.

Incredibly, the complaint also whines that no one at the New York Times asked Trump what he thought of the op-ed before it was published.

Yes, I'm serious.

The Times never informed the Campaign that it intended to publish the claims in the Defamatory Article, did not afford the Campaign an opportunity to verify the accuracy of the claims before publication, and did not reach out to the Campaign for comment.

As if it's a requirement that every time an opinion piece is published, an outlet must reach out to whomever it's criticizing.

I guess I have some explaining to do about my Twitter feed.

According to the complaint, the Times published this piece before the release of the Mueller report, as part of a grand conspiracy.

On information and belief, The Times decided to publish the Defamatory Article when it did, in advance of the Mueller Report, knowing that the Mueller Report was likely to exonerate the Campaign from allegations of collusion with Russia regarding the 2016 election. Once the Mueller Report was released, The Times knew that any claims of conspiracy would not be credible. Thus, by publishing the Defamatory Article in March 2019, The Times sought to damage the Campaign before the Mueller Report would be released debunking the conspiracy claims.


Here's a nice little nugget:

The Defamatory Article defamed the Campaign in its trade or profession, because it falsely accuses the Campaign of conducting an unethical and unpatriotic election campaign and colluding with a foreign adversary to improperly influence an election result.

It's also apparently because of this piece -- and not Trump's own actions -- that Trump has to play defense on the issue of Russian collusion.

The Defamatory Article has forced, and will continue to force, the Campaign to expend funds on corrective advertisements and to otherwise publicize the fact that the Campaign did not collude with, have a deal with, or have a "quid pro quo" with Russia regarding the 2016 election.

Riiiiiiiiiiiight. That's definitely the fault of the New York Times and not the -- to use their words -- "unethical and unpatriotic election campaign" Trump ran in 2016 (and is running again now).

This paragraph is a doozy:

The Defamatory Article does not allege or refer to any proof of its claims of a "quid pro quo" or "deal" between the Campaign and Russia. Rather, the Defamatory Article selectively refers to previously-reported contacts between a Russian lawyer and persons connected with the Campaign. The Defamatory Article, however, insinuates that these contacts must have resulted in a quid pro quo or a deal, and the Defamatory Article does not acknowledge that, in fact, there had been extensive reporting, including in The Times, that the meetings and contacts that the Defamatory Article refers to did not result in any quid pro quo or deal between the Campaign and Russia, or anyone connected with either of them.

Here's the thing: it's totally legal to make insinuations and rely on certain facts instead of others. And there is certainly no legal requirement to disclose every single little piece of information that might be somewhat relevant to the opinion you're stating. Such a requirement would be ridiculous. It would also be unconstitutional.

In the United States, we have this handy thing called the First Amendment. And because of that First Amendment, you don't just get to sue people -- or media outlets -- for things like opinions or stating true facts. In fact, even if something said or written turns out to be false (which doesn't apppear to be the case here!), public figures can only successfully sue if the false statement in question was made with knowledge or and reckless disregard for the truth.

These rules are important. They protect the free press, free speech, and public debate. As the Supreme Court noted in an oft-quoted segment from another stupid defamation lawsuit filed against The Times, the United States has

a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

This is something Americans should be proud of and fiercely protect. But unfortunately, here we are in 2020, with a president -- and really, an entire political party -- that seem to believe facts are evil and only rich and powerful right-wing sycophants should feel free to speak their minds.

I would love to defend a suit like this in court. Because of our handy little First Amendment and the requirement a statement be untrue in order to be defamatory, the Times would get to conduct fact-finding -- including depositions taken under oath of Trump, his idiot sons, and his top aides -- about its (cough cough ALLEGED! cough cough] collusion with Russia.

Discovery would be LIT.

But this case will never get that far, because there is NO WAY these assholes actually want to go there.

Lawsuits like this exist for two reasons: to intimidate and to use for propaganda purposes. Donald Trump and Charles Harder are nothing more than taller versions of elementary school bullies who kick and scream when they don't get their way. In a short while, this lawsuit will be quietly dropped. But Trump will still get to screech incoherently at his rallies about suing the "lying New York Times."

This suit should be immediately dismissed and both Harder and the Trump campaign should be severely sanctioned.

Here's the complaint, in all its glory:

[ NY Times ]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.

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