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Trump files garbage defamation lawsuit against New York Times opinion piece

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

The Trump Campaign today sued the New York Times in New York state court for defamation over an opinion piece, which is kind of all you need to know if you already know that where the plaintiff is a political figure, defamation requires a showing of “actual malice” and factual falsity. Meaning that an opinion piece cannot, by definition, be defamatory, unless they contain factual assertions that otherwise meet all the other requisite criteria.

So it’s a garbage lawsuit, but so were all the other defamation actions Trump has filed over the years, all of them lost or quietly withdrawn. This is his first as President.

The opinion writer, Max Frankel, wrote in March 2019 that the Trump campaign and Russia didn’t explicitly collude in the 2016 but rather had an “overarching deal” to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign in exchange for pro-Russian foreign policy.


The statement, which in hindsight comes off as a fairly accurate assessment, was not a factual assertion but the conclusion of Frankel’s argument — the culmination of Frankel’s review of the myriad contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. And Russia targeted Clinton’s campaign, multiple times and in numerous ways, and Trump has since delivered on pro-Russian foreign policy.

The complaint takes Frankel’s vague, conclusory argument and pretends it was meant literally — such as, in response to my contention that Trump is a yellowing meat-sack of vindictive bile, the Trump campaign sued me, claiming that I knew it was false when I maliciously claimed he was not a person but a sack.

Anyway, this suit won’t be long for this world (sanctions would be nice, Your Honor) but it seems worth noting since US presidents typically don’t file defamation lawsuits.

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