In one the president’s biggest direct counterattacks against the fake news media, Donald Trump’s campaign filed a major lawsuit against The New York Times on Wednesday over a libelous column that accused the president of colluding with Moscow. The lawsuit, which seeks “millions” in damages for the defamatory column, was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Central to the lawsuit is an opinion piece written by Max Frankel in March of last year. It was titled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” and subheaded with: “The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy.”
In his first paragraph, Frankel laid out his evidence-free argument.
“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,” Frankel wrote. “The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”
The lawsuit cites both headlines and the first paragraph in the lawsuit, but it also accuses the New York Times as a whole of ongoing bias against the president.
“The Times was well aware when it published these statements that they were not true,” the suit said. “The Times’ own previous reporting had confirmed the falsity of these statements. There was no ‘deal’ and no ‘quid pro quo’ between the Campaign or anyone affiliated with it, and Vladimir Putin or the Russian government.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that Frankel’s assertions had been proven untrue by the Mueller Report.
“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,” the suit continued.
In a statement, a spokesman for the paper said they were protected by the First Amendment.
“The Trump Campaign has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable,” the Times spokesman said. “Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance. We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.”
Well, there are judgments, there are opinions, and then there is fake news. And just because you happen to slip a piece of reporting into the Op-Ed section of the paper, it doesn’t clear you to publish whatever nonsense you want in that space. Whether or not this particular piece crossed the line, we’ll have to wait and see what the courts conclude. But either way, this legal brushback is a long time coming.