Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed a defamation suit against The Washington Post on Tuesday over two opinion pieces published last year.
The first op-ed listed in the lawsuit, “Trump just invited another Russian attack. Mitch McConnell is making one more likely.,” was singled out by the campaign for what the suit described as a “defamatory claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that the Campaign ‘tried to conspire with’ a ‘sweeping and systematic’ attack by Russia against the 2016 United States presidential election.”
(Mueller’s report concluded, “The investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away. Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”)
The campaign also took issue with another Post op-ed, “Trump: I can win reelection with just my base,” for a line that asked, “Who knows what sort of aid Russia and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign, now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?”
The lawsuit claimed, “There has never been any statement by anyone associated with the Campaign or the administration ‘inviting’ Russia or North Korea to assist the Campaign in 2019 or beyond. There also has never been any reporting that the Campaign has ever had any contact with North Korea relating to any United States election.”
The campaign is seeking unspecified damages in “the millions of dollars,” as well as a trial by jury.
In a statement sent to TheWrap, Kristine Coratti Kelly, the vice president of communications at The Washington Post, said, “It’s disappointing to see the President’s campaign committee resorting to these types of tactics and we will vigorously defend this case.”
The suit comes a week after the campaign filed a similar defamation suit against The New York Times over a 2019 opinion piece. First Amendment scholars who spoke with TheWrap at the time said the suit was not likely to succeed.
“One of the functions of the press is to be allowed the latitude to say things without risking a libel lawsuit because we need room for opinion and the interchange and exchange of ideas,” Michael Overing, a digital media lawyer and First Amendment expert, said last week.
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