Nope, No Hypocrisy Here …

Trump Maladministration

Yesterday one of Trump’s lawyers sued Buzzfeed and Fusion GPS over the Steele Dossier.

Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer for Trump who is named in the dossier, says BuzzFeed and several of its staffers defamed him when it published the 35-page document and an accompanying article last January. He also says that Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson, its founder, similarly defamed him after it hired an ex-British spy to compile the document as part of its opposition research against the Trump campaign.

Today, Trump said he intends to “take a strong look” at libel laws because he thinks they aren’t fair.

Trump made the tautological — if vaguely threatening — statement to reporters at a cabinet meeting.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” he said.

Trump said he wants “fairness.”

“If somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse,” he said. “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.”

Trump himself was never guilty of saying false and defamatory things, of course.

What’s probably frustrating Trump and his lawyer is the fact that in the U.S. it’s just about impossible for a public official to successfully sue for defamation. As it says on this legal information page

The public has a right to criticize the people who govern them, so the least protection from defamation is given to public officials. When officials are accused of something that involves their behavior in office, they have to prove all of the above elements of defamation and they must also prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” …

… “Actual malice” means that the person who made the statement knew it wasn’t true, or didn’t care whether it was true or not and was reckless with the truth — for example, when someone has doubts about the truth of a statement but does not bother to check further before publishing it.

I’m not aware of a single case of a sitting president successfully suing someone for defamation. Or even unsuccessfully suing someone. As far as I know, the last POTUS who took legal steps to keep people from saying nasty things about him was John Adams, and that didn’t turn out well.

American tradition has always been that you can say any damn thing you want about the POTUS except to threaten physical harm. And that extends to anyone on the White House staff and his personal lawyers who get sucked into public issues. Michael Cohen should know that. Obviously, if presidents or other elected officials could sue anyone who said anything critical of them, free speech would be a joke.

I suspect that if President Obama had attempted to sue Trump for dafamation he would have had a hell of a case, especially since Trump continued to push the “birther” theory long after it had been debunked. But he didn’t, because presidents are supposed to be above that sort of thing.

In other news — Trump also said today that he thinks it’s “unlikely” he would ever have to be interviewed by Bob Mueller.

“We’ll see what happens. Certainly I’ll see what happens. But when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you would even have an interview.”

My understanding is that if Mueller insists on an interview, Trump would have to submit to it — or else figure out how to fire Mueller. And we’d have one doozy of a constitutional crisis on our hands then.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Tom_b  •  Jan 10, 2018 @7:03 pm

    Someone should advise Cohen that the loser of lawsuit pays court costs. And who could be a bigger loser than a Trump lawyer? Chasing literal ambulances would confer greater dignity.

  2. Doug  •  Jan 10, 2018 @8:45 pm

    I'd say Trump is whistling through the graveyard, but it's more like he's conducting a full orchestra at ground zero of a nuclear strike.

    He may attend and commemorate the opening of the Trump Presidential Library at the West Wing of San Quentin,  a unique accomplishment. 

  3. Swami  •  Jan 10, 2018 @9:07 pm

    Well, Trump could always have an interview about money laundering or obstruction of justice if he's at a loss to find common ground on the topic of discussion for an interview. Everything doesn't have to be about collusion. He should give it a try. It's sorta like going on a blind date. You don't know if you're going to hit it off or not — unless you try.

  4. Swami  •  Jan 11, 2018 @2:27 am

    Cohen is just mimicking a tried and true Trump tactic of creating a public image contrary to reality. His lawsuit will be quietly dropped and fall from notice after he's attempted to create the image of an honorable man whose been slandered and defamed. Common sense would dictate that any lawyer who has a long standing working relationship with Trump has to qualify as a major sleaze bag. Scruples aren't part of the job description for anybody working in proximity to Trump…And especially an intellectually and morally under developed hack lawyer like Cohen.

    It was so cold outside yesterday that my lawyer had his hands in his own pockets.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 11, 2018 @6:52 am

    Sadly, "projection" shook its head at Donald "No Collusion, No Collusion" tRUMP's ironic talk about expanding this countries libel laws.

    It knew the time had come

    It then packed its belongings, called for an Uber driver, and sat to wait for the trip to its final resting place:

    The Retirement Home for Words Conservatives Use, But Have Absolutely No Self-Awareness That Better Apply to Them.

    It looked forward to reminiscing, and sharing a sherry or two with old friends like "lying," "hypocritical" "corrupt," "crooked," "weak, "stupid," "clueless," and others.

    "Projection" was the last holdout.

    Foolishly hoping that maybe if it stayed out there in circulation, that conservatives  might finally have a spark of self-awareness before it's too late.

    Donald "No Collusion, No Collusion" tRUMP, one of the most libelous people in history, whining about others libelling him, finally made "projection" realize it is time to go…

     

  6. bernie  •  Jan 11, 2018 @10:54 am

    It is not a case that Trump is lawyer stupid.  The guy uses and abuses the legal system.  Where are the damages from this supposed liable.  This is the first question the lawyers tend to ask in my experience.  It is kind of a what's in it for me kind of a question.  Of course if your bank account is too fat they might play  you for some billable hours.  You will likely be paying for those up front.  

    It is not the case that Trump has lost credibility or his reputation for telling the truth, that he blew long ago for most people with any working level of skepticism.  It is not damage to his credit rating, which was so low he had to probably get chummy with those Russian bankers.  It is not that he lost his reputation as a gentleman, as his pride in being a sexual predator tends to work against him in that regard.  

    In the meantime what about his larceny toward America.  To quote a comment from the NYT today by a commenter Ken F. (Staten Island) some of us feel as we have damages and deserve justice. 

    ""Guys, you LOST." We did indeed lose the presidency, despite winning the popular vote. We also lost America's already fading moral standing in the world. We lost having a government of the people, by the people, and especially FOR the people. We lost a Congress that works for the majority of Americans. We lost any claim to a superior form of government. And we lost our democracy. Well I am a U.S. Army veteran who refuses to accept these losses, and I am more determined than ever before to help bring America back to what it was meant to be. That will never happen until today's GOP is removed from government." 

    Some veterans can write, think, and know a bit about justice. Some non-veterans had bone-spurs and use the justice system as their club.