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Whether or Not Trump's Libel Threat Violates the First Amendment, It's Clearly an Assault on Free Speech

One of the president's lawyers sent a threatening letter last week to author Michael Wolff and to Steve Rubin, Wolff's publisher at Henry Holt. The attorney, Charles Harder, claimed to be "investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements" in Fire and Fury, the hot new book on the Trump administration that Wolff wrote and Rubin published. Harder demanded, on behalf of the president of the United States, that Wolff's book—that is, a work of journalism critical of Trump and his administration—be taken out of circulation.

AmazonAmazonDonald Trump is as public a figure as can be, so if Harder hopes to get anywhere with a libel suit he has to prove that the book is not just false but written with malice. In his letter he claims that Wolff's malice can be presumed because

the book admits in the Introduction that it contains untrue statements. Moreover, the Book appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called "sources" have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them. Other alleged "sources" of statements about Mr. Trump are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements or are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump...

That reference to "untrue statements" is rather misleading. Wolff was noting the fact that some things that sources in the administration told him might not be true, even if his reporting that they said them is. (Other journalists working apparently harder than Harder are compiling likely or confirmed fact errors in Wolff.)

The letter further accuses Wolff and Rubin of tortious interference with Trump's contractual relationship with his former adviser Steve Bannon. The book quotes Bannon seeming to violate agreements he made with Trump to not say bad things about him. (The Volokh Conspiracy's David Post explains the absurd overreach of the non-disclosure agreement our president makes everyone around him sign.)

The rest of the letter is a tediously long list of information that Harder insists Wolff and Rubin must preserve regarding the book in case this threatened but so far non-existent lawsuit moves forward.

In short: The president of the United States is demanding a book critical of him disappear from public view under threat of legal punishment.

This censorious mentality is appalling, but it sadly is not far outside the norms of American politics. Trump's own 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, stated frankly that the real problem with the Supreme Court decision Citizens United was that it allowed documentary filmmakers funded in a certain way to legally criticize her, apparently a nightmare that must not stand. Attempts to crush malcontents who dare criticize the president go back all the way to the Sedition Act of 1798. But that law, thankfully, was rightly critiqued at the time and expired two years later, unlamented—by most, at least.

Trump's supporters could deny that Harder's absurd letter impacts the First Amendment or freedom of speech in a political sense, since Trump is not acting as the chief executive enforcing criminal law; he's just pretending to be an aggrieved citizen suffering a tort. But some things we don't want officials to do—like, say, trying to use legal force to crush criticism—are things we shouldn't want anyone to do if we value a free society. Trump the citizen shouldn't be able to shut up his critics any more than Trump the president should.

Whether it be libel law for Trump or campaign finance law for Clinton (or invasion-of-privacy torts funded by aggrieved billionaires), legal action that squashes free expression—especially political expression, but really expression of any sort—is bad for America.

And yes, that's true even if one has said something untrue. We don't, sensibly, allow people to use the force of law against everyone who upsets or harms their feelings or interests in every case and for every reason. The harms of libel are not harms that one should be able to rectify via the force of law, since they don't directly and physically harm our bodies or justly owned property. The free society's solution to spoken or published untruths is the speaking and publishing of countering truths.

In any case, as Wolff and Rubin's lawyer Elizabeth McNamara points out in her response to Harder, his threatening letter doesn't actually name a single alleged libel in the book.

McNamara further notes that one specific accusation from Harder, regarding "false light invasion of privacy," is not even a legal cause of action in New York, and that his attempt to use an NDA that Bannon might have signed to censor a work of critical journalism is "a perversion of contract law and a gross violation of the First Amendment." She also turns around Harder's tedious list of document-preservation demands back on the president.

The fact that Harder wrote and sent that letter doesn't necessarily presage an actual lawsuit; it was likely more the sort of thing a lawyer felt obliged to do to mollify a tetchy and enraged client. The deeper problem is that Trump, when enraged, had the instinct to demand his lawyer wipe out a work of journalism critiquing his administration. That speaks volumes about his respect for free expression.

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  • JWatts||

    "Trump's supporters could deny that Harder's absurd letter impacts the First Amendment or freedom of speech in a political sense, since Trump is not acting as the chief executive enforcing criminal law; he's just pretending to be an aggrieved citizen suffering a tort."

    Well they could because that's basically what it is. Trump isn't expressing a legal imperative to block all works critical of him (which is essentially what Hillary Clinton was implying).

    "The fact that Harder wrote and sent that letter doesn't necessarily presage an actual lawsuit; it was likely more the sort of thing a lawyer felt obliged to do to mollify a tetchy and enraged client. The deeper problem is that Trump, when enraged, had the instinct to demand his lawyer wipe out a work of journalism critiquing his administration. That speaks volumes about his respect for free expression."

    Trump is a hot head who feels the need to strike back at some one who angered him. That's a serious issue. But it's certainly not a broad assault on the concept of free expression.

  • Tony||

    Is life really long enough to spend moments defending that asshole?

  • Rebel Scum||

    Is it long enough to keep making asinine claims and generally be hysterical about that asshole?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I thought he meant Hillary Clinton was the asshole, so I let it slide.

  • Vladilyich||

    Prior restraint is prior restraint, illegal whether you're the President of the pool boy.

  • shawn_dude||

    The difference between them is that the pool boy has no authority to act on that, but Trump does.

  • GeoffB1972||

    Trump didn't send troops to confiscate the book as a threat to national security. His lawyer sent a letter suggesting that publication of works defamatory to his personal climate could lead to a lawsuit. Neither Trump nor the pool boy have the authority to enforce prior restraint, only ask for it, which I believe Trump recognizes given that his personal attorney and not the Attorney General of the United States sent the letter.

  • DajjaI||

    At the risk of being censored again by Reason - I have to agree completely.

    Oprah for Queen 2020 Exploratory Comittee approves this message.

  • DesigNate||

    Shouldn't libel just be libel? Why does someone's public status matter? It's because of National Enquirer, isn't it?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It is expected that folks gonna have Opinions about famous people.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    It has been the path of First Amendment jurisprudence to preserve the right of citizens to freely criticize, be free from reproach and retaliation from public figures.

    Something something tyranny and despotism something something punishing truth something something.

  • GeoffB1972||

    But there is a difference between criticism and libel. If I say that President Obama was an idiot who ran the government poorly for the benefit of his friends, I'm probably okay. If I say that he sexually assaulted me (we've never met, for the record), he would have every right to sue me for defamation even if he is a public figure.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    What if you like....I don't know...accused him of not being born in the United States?

  • retiredfire||

    If you made the accusation as though it was a fact, and knew it to be false, then you have slandered him, and if you put it in print, libeled him.
    If you state it as your opinion, it is neither.

  • Wanderer||

    So, since it wasn't Obama, who sexually assaulted you ?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They give people more slack against public figures because those politicians can fuck you over and you might have some choice words to call them.

    If you call you neighbor a goat fucking pedophile, he would have a defamation claim. If you called Chuck Schumer a goat fucking pedophile, Chucky would probably still have a claim for defamation but you might get some slack because, well Chuck Schumer is a .....

  • chemjeff||

    Yes, it is due to the power imbalance that public figures have, that your ordinary neighbor does not have.

    Which is why public figures should be held to a higher standard.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Like journalists?

    There used to be a saying that 'Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel'
    -Mark Twain (supposedly contested)

    That is not the case much anymore, especially with Trump. Many people ignore what the media says outside of the actual news.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Also, never argue with a man who buys lube by the barrel.

  • retiredfire||

    Wait. What?
    A public figure can retaliate against you, harder, thus it is OK for you to tell lies about him/her?

    That's just stupid.

  • Robert Crim||

    Libel is libel, but people who have access to the press, as public figures, are presumed to have an adequate corrective not in suppression of speech but in more speech. In other words, Trump's ability to call Wolff a liar at pleasure -- and be heard by everyone on planet earth -- gives him essentially no grounds for relief in a suit at law.

    That, of course, obliges me to disagree with the editorial. If Trump's way to call Wolff a liar is to have his lawyer threaten a suit because the introduction to the book admits what is reported is untrue, then the need for a suit well may not exist -- and the threat, itself, is no endangerment to the First Amendment.

    Finally, I think Reason has to come to grips with the problem posed by deliberate publication of provable falsehoods. The First Amendment exists to shield reasonable disagreements over evidence or policy. But, there is no public value in allowing someone to, e.g., call Rand Paul a pedophile on NO evidence at all.

    When someone elects to behave like Hermann Goering, there have to be legal mechanisms in place to inform the rest of us about just whom these people are trying to emulate.

  • chemjeff||

    The harms of libel are not harms that one should be able to rectify via the force of law, since they don't directly and physically harm our bodies or justly owned property.

    Well, I don't know about that. I can imagine that a person's reputation has some actual value, and that value is most clearly manifested in that person's future earnings potential. For instance, if the local paper publishes a false story about me as some horrible person, and I lose my job for this reason, then it will be much more difficult for me to obtain a job in the future. And I think that the reason why Trump's claims about Wolff's book being libelous are baloney because Trump can't really claim that his future earnings potential are harmed by Wolff's book. I don't really know how to calculate harm originating from lost earnings potential due to libel but I don't think it is imaginary.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I'm not sure the right way to determine the value of a reputation, though, since it's an idea that exists entirely in other peoples' heads, and therefore does not actually belong to the person whose reputation it is.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Lost volume seller.

  • chemjeff||

    Well yeah, that is why using a measure such as lost future earnings potential is IMO a good way to start, since that depends on how others interact with you.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    That seems pretty nebulous, though.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Nebulous = Lawyer payday.

    Won't never change, I tell you hwut.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Lost future earnings potential implies we can predict the future.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Better contact your insurance rep and ask how they do it for your risk class.

  • GeoffB1972||

    The idea doesn't exist entirely in other people's heads. It manifests in their reactions to and interactions with you, including in situations that could be of consequence financially. Damaging someone's reputation damages their ability to enjoy a trust premium in financial interactions or in the selling of their counsel.

  • DajjaI||

    Grenfell Tower is an example of how expansive libel laws can be used to shut down legitimate criticism and end in catastrophe.

  • Jerryskids||

    You are making defamatory statements about England's laws against making defamatory statements! Not quite as bad as insulting that poultry-country guy or the religion-of-peace guy, but bad enough.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Brian, libel is a method of defamation expressed by print, writing, pictures, signs, effigies, or any communication embodied in physical form that is injurious to a person's reputation, exposes a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or injures a person in his/her business or profession.

    The absolute defense for libel is the truth.

    If you are printing the truth, you have nothing to worry about.

    If you are lying and malicious in your attempt to injury someone's reputation then you should be liable.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The media is calling Trump crazy. As in mentally unfit to be president.

    How is that truthful? Trump is clearly more mentally fit to handle all the rigors of office at 71 than Obama, Booosh, Clinton and many other younger presidents.

    Ruth Ginsgburg falls asleep during the state of the union and she is 84 going on 85. I would bet there are many other things she does because she is too old to handle the rigors of that court position. Eighty years olds should not be driving cars because they are unsafe behind the wheel but we allow her to decide major court cases.

  • Calidissident||

    You think it should be illegal to call the president crazy or mentally unfit?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its libel if its printed, not true, causes harm and was malicious.

    I know YOU want Trump to be mentally unfit but he's not.

    Don't get me wrong, I am for making the 1st Amendment as absolute a protected right as possible just like the 2nd Amendment.

    The 2nd Amendment applies to individuals and there shall be NO infringing on American's right to keep and bare any armament. No background checks. No waiting period. No banning of any gun or weapon. Grenades, tanks, rocket launchers, nukes.

  • Calidissident||

    I'm not arguing about whether Trump is mentally unfit. I'm asking you if you think there should be legal consequences to saying Trump is crazy or mentally unfit, and you seem to think yes, while calling yourself an absolute defender of the 1st amendment.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    When LC1789 says he is an absolute defender of the 1st ammendment, you have to mentally insert the "for Republicans". Everyone else doesn't qualify as real people and thus do not have rights that can be infringed.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I know that you cannot read Stormy... that comment where I said that I can see arguments for both for and against and the 1st Amendment should be absolute like the 2nd Amendment.

    You hate the 2nd Amendment, so the BoR is not absolute protections of rights according to the left.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Cali: Whatever absolute defender of the 1st Amendment is. I never said that was an "absolute defender of the 1st amendment".

    I am personally not set on having defamation laws. Defamation is speech designed to harm one's reputation with malicious lies so I can see that not being covered by the 1st Amendment as it is an attack on someone which violates the NAP.

    You don't have to wait for someone to kill you before you can defend yourself. The question is where that line is.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "Absolute defender of the 1st Amendment" could be one who defends the current legal protections of the 1st Amendment.

    I hate it when lefties say "no right is absolute" which is technically true but not for the reasons they want rights to not be absolute. The left wants rights to be subject to complete government control.

    The government saying that all weapons and arms are covered under the 2nd Amendment except nuclear weapons because the radioactive material used in the nukes harm other people via radiation would be an example of the 2nd Amendment being strong protection but not absolute.

  • Calidissident||

    I don't see how you could possibly think the example you gave was even close to the line. Do you not see that the commentary about Trump being crazy or unfit is mostly a subjective opinion? It's one thing if you could prove someone made up a story where Trump was diagnosed by his doctors as clinically insane, it's quite another to suggest it's libel if you say the president is unfit for office.

    I remember plenty of conservatives and libertarians who said Obama was crazy and unfit, and that's not getting into more dubious accusations about him. Should Obama have been able to sue all those people for libel and win?

  • GeoffB1972||

    To follow on your example, anyone who said Obama was diagnosed as unfit by a medical professional should be subject to libel in the absence of said evaluation. And any doctor who diagnosed Obama by means other than formal diagnosis in a standard clinical environment should be subject not only to libel on Obama's part but censure by their profession's governing bodies.

    "I read a book about psychopaths and it sounded just like Obama" is fine.
    "Any professional psychiatrist would diagnose Obama a psychopath." Questionable but okay if you're an idiot on the street. Not okay if you append the letters MD, PsyD or other professional credential.

  • GeoffB1972||

    There's no contradiction between a First Amendment right to free speech and being subject to a private tort action if you malign someone. On the contrary, it's very nice that instead of government settling what is truth, the members of a jury do so in a civil court on those occasions when neither party is willing to back off from their positions.

  • retiredfire||

    Rights can be removed, through due process.
    Thus, once the due process of a trial is completed, one's first amendment right, on the subject of the trial, can be removed and that person's statement, adjudicated to be false, can not be protected by freedom of speech.

  • GeoffB1972||

    It should be illegal to suggest that there is a clinical basis for calling anyone crazy or insane in the absence of a clinical evaluation. Saying, in my opinion the President is batshit crazy is fine.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    Trump contracted syphilis while in college from a short romantic relationship he had with one of his male lacrosse teammates. This is well known. It was also the reason he received a medical deferment and got out of Vietnam. It was all hushed up by his father, but it allowed him to avoid the war, of which Donald was terrified. IT is possible that his mental state now may be attributable to the late stages of that disease if it was not treated adequately at the time.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Opinion cannot be libel by definition.

    Now, the Psychologist who diagnosed Trump as mentally ill based on no examination at all should be put under review of his medical license. HIPAA and basic medical standards are both aligned against him on that. However, that's a violation of his medical oath, not libel.

  • Wanderer||

    An interesting point of vue

  • Hugh Akston||

    If you are lying and malicious in your attempt to injury someone's reputation then you should be liable.

    Why?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Because you are injuring someone's reputation which is not just saying what you think politically or otherwise. The defamation comes from custom when reputations were more important because of small communities and earning a living. No body would hire you if you were labelled _____ .

    Same with fighting words not covered being by the 1st Amendment. Fighting words was to prevent people from saying they would kill you and you could nothing about it.

    I could see the argument for and against both things. I think the "yelling fire" exemption should go but that has a purpose too. It would simpler to just have everything someone says and does covered by the 1st Amendment as free speech and freedom of religion.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    If you yell fire in a crowded theater, you are violating your contract with the theater. The proper way to handle that is through contract law, and not by restricting free speech. The same thing goes for reputation. If a paper starts printing false information about you, the way to handle it is to go to their competitor and give them proof that they are printing false information. Then the other paper will attack the paper that lies, and ruin their reputation.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I agree that using the free market approach should be the default.

    Theaters could easily contract the ticket to include that yelling fire violates their rules and would subject you to civil penalties.

    Of course, our civil system does not really work like that which is why you have disorderly conduct laws.

    The Founding Fathers were not against maintaining peace and civil discord even with criminal penalties.

    I think someone yelling fire when there is not one is not as big of a problem as there being a fire and people being too scared to yell fire then people die from the fire.

  • Kivlor||

    The defamation comes from custom when reputations were more important because of small communities and earning a living.

    In the age of Twitter and internet fauxrage mobs, where being accused of saying something taboo on your free time or attending a peaceful rally for ideas someone declares "beyond the pale" could cause you to lose your job, I'm not sure that reputations aren't very important, especially for the plebs. Curiously, that has never changed. It has always been the poor and middle class who stand to be most harmed by having their reputations unjustly tarnished. For the wealthy and powerful, honor has always been a luxury. For the poor, honor is and always has been a necessity.

  • Jerryskids||

    I would think a guy who claimed he could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any supporters as well as saying there's no such thing as bad publicity is as much as claiming he has a bullet-proof reputation. Which I suppose is true - I can't imagine anything anybody could possibly say about Donald Trump that would affect my opinion of him in the slightest. So how could he argue with a straight face that anything said about him is injurious to his reputation? Well, except for the fact that Trump has a reputation for saying the most laughably absurd, ridiculously untrue things.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Obama literally killed Americans via drone and you lefties love him. He ordered the murder of Americans!

    You don't see the difference between a hyperbole statement about how popular Trump is and Obama actually having Americans murdered via presidential order?

    Billions in free publicity! You people fall for it every time.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Sorry lovecon, eligibility for the Most Insane Non Sequitur award ended on December 31.

    But you should definitely bookmark this post so you can run a FYC campaign leading up to the 2018 awards.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Aw Hugh. I know you want to forget Obama's murder of Americans just like you lefties want to forget that FDR put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. It will never happen.

    I can believe you lefties fall for the tactics of the Tweeter-in-Chief.

  • chemjeff||

    You know, LC, it is possible to be opposed to both Obama's drone-murders and to Trump's hyperbolic statements.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Good, a strong and consistent showing like that will really keep you top of mind with the judges.

  • Calidissident||

    lc1789 calling everyone who disagrees with a lefty and making nonsensical strawman arguments about how much they love Obama and FDR doesn't constitute a logical argument.

    The funny thing is you're probably the first person to be aghast at how unreasonable many leftists are when they accuse everyone who criticizes them of being reactionary/racist/fascists/etc.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Funny, its only the lefties who are upset by being called what you are.

    You really think people that hear what you say and read what you write cannot tell you are lefties?

    When you whitewash Obama's murder of Americans without Due process but are fine with Trump being called crazy and mean it, you might be a lefty.

    When you like the Nanny-State you might be a lefty.

    When you try and whitewash FDR putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, you might be a lefty.

    When you won't admit how Obama was a socialist, you might be a lefty.

    When you talk like a lefty, idolize lefties, and undermine the Constitution and freedom, you probably are a lefty.

  • Calidissident||

    Who here has done any of that?

    Also, this is essentially the exact same response leftists have whenever someone points out how they overuse words like racist, fascist, etc.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Lovecon1789 should change his username to ButWhatAboutObama1789.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    It would fit right in with Chipper 'TDS' Morning Baculum, Cali 'TDS' dissident, High 'TDS' Akston, and Chem 'TDS' jeff, Jerry 'TDS' kids, and Tony 'TDS' Shreech.

    Why don't you lefties just admit to loving socialism and be loud and proud?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I have to admit, lc, it's kind of impressive how hard you work at writing the absolute dumbest comments.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have to respond to moronic nonsense like yours, so I need to put it in language you dumb-dumbs can understand.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    No, i don't think that's accurate.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    Dude, you are hilarious. How does it feel living in a world that is completely two dimensional? You realize you are on a libertarian board, right? And you can't wrap your head around why so many people here hate Trump? Or that they can do so while *gasp* still hating Obama and Hillary as well? You are a lost cause..

  • chemjeff||

    "If you are printing the truth, you have nothing to worry about."

    Yes, up until the point when you realize that institutions with power (not just governments) will use libel laws to silence unflattering statements about them even if they are truthful.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Chilling free speech can be a problem.

    If I'm rich I can drag you into court and would not care if you win, since paying costs of litigation would be nothing.

    The check to that is vexatious litigant status which prevents you from filing legal actions because you are abusing the system.

    I don't my taxpayer money spent prosecuting defamation actions against citizens pissed off at politicians. So the government should not be doing that.

    Trump is talking about spending his own money to go after the liars in the media defamation.

  • chemjeff||

    "The check to that is vexatious litigant status which prevents you from filing legal actions because you are abusing the system."

    But that is unfair to litigants who may actually have a legitimate gripe.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its a 1st Amendment right to redress grievances too.

    Sometimes you give up your rights voluntarily by harming others who have to deal with your BS.

  • chemjeff||

    Okay, LC. Suppose you don't like me and you decide to sue me 50 times for purely vexatious reasons. At that point the judge declares you to be a "vexatious litigant" and prevents you from filing a legal action. But then the next day, I really do harm you in some way. Shouldn't you then be allowed to sue me?

  • Kivlor||

    Shouldn't you then be allowed to sue me?

    It's a boy who cried wolf scenario. If you constantly file such suits, and the court routinely finds that they were vexatious and malicious and baseless, then at some point it is reasonable to not expect the courts to believe you.

    There is no good answer in these situations, because as you point out, a person should have the option of redress, and the idea of stripping them of it is quite horrific. On the other hand, allowing this to continue would allow the strong to prey on and crush the weak into dust.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    It clear you have zero idea how our legal system works.

    The courts just don't don't allow a complaint to be filed by you. The party that you are suing would have to file a motion to dismiss or similar pleading to have your complaint dismissed.

    If the judge happens to recognize your name and that you were ruled a vexatious litigant by a court then the judge might make a ruling on his/her own.

    This would allow you to make an argument to the court that "this case" is real.

    Its a cry wolf situation plus what jury is going to believe you if you make a bunch of false claims?

  • Kivlor||

    If the judge happens to recognize your name and that you were ruled a vexatious litigant by a court then the judge might make a ruling on his/her own.

    This would allow you to make an argument to the court that "this case" is real.

    I've never had to deal with such a situation, but this is how I had thought it is supposed to work.

    Such a label doesn't stop you from filing a lawsuit, it means your target doesn't have to respond until a judge determines if they'll let your claim go forward due to your history of malicious use of the courts, right?

  • retiredfire||

    In England, it is easier to file libel suits, but there is the protection that the loser must pay all the costs.
    Thus, institutions with power, and the money to back it up, are restrained from filing libel, or slander claims, if they know it to be true.
    Our Congress, infected with too many lawyers, won't allow the "loser pays" tort reform, thus the rich and powerful get away with too much.

  • Bearded Spock||

    I challenge the assumption that Trump is trying to suppress the publication of this book.

    Given the number of obvious falsehoods in it, and the hilariously bad writing (e.g., "pubic" substituted for "public" in several places), I think Trump purposely created all this Sturm und Drang in order to get more people to read it and provide another example of liberal bias for his crusade against the Media.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The media is saying the books is "flying off the shelves". I would call BS on that. Most of the people buying the book are media types. The media is trying to hard to act like everyone should buy the book because some media types want the book to report it to their readers or viewers.

  • chemjeff||

    90th Dimensional Chess! It's obvious!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its at least "x" D chess since all your rubes are spending all your time on it. You can concede to the chess game at any time.

    It makes sense since the left is losing on fronts and it will be even worse in 2018 and 2020.

  • chemjeff||

    Oh give me a break.

    The whole "nth dimensional chess" rationale is a pure invention meant to spin away the plainly obvious truth: Trump is a thin-skinned narcissist who is suing this publisher because his ego was bruised. Plain and simple.

    We know this because Trump has done similar things in the past. He has sued reporters who claimed that his net worth was merely in the millions range and not in the billions range. He uses libel laws and the courts to lash out as his enemies when his pride is wounded. There is no ultra-deep strategery going on here.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Billions in free publicity!

    You knuckleheads on the left thought Trump was your boy and it turns out he's got some Libertarian agendas that are being implemented.

    Burns you to no end.

  • Bearded Spock||

    One of the biggest mistakes Trump's critics continue to make is to assume he is an intellectual lightweight who is incapable of thinking strategically.

    In reality, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly over the past two years that he is a very shrewd politician who understands how to get his message out to the public.

    Trump's response to this book is exactly the type thing he would do to get people to accept his message, which is in this case is the biased Media are lying about him.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The left is getting more and more upset that trump is besting them.

    Its all good. People should be more skeptical of the government and the media. They are both packed with liars.

  • Tony||

    The phrase "pubic speaking" was the worst copyediting mishap of my career. See, spellcheck won't catch that.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I once signed an email to a client with "Best Regards," except i typed a t instead of a g.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You know who else tried to block unflattering commentary about them?

  • Jerryskids||

    There's the "report spam" button right there, should I click it?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Better safe (from Paul) than sorry.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have to admit, Citizen, it's kind of impressive how hard you work at writing the absolute dumbest comments.

  • Tony||

    All that matters is getting the idea out there that this book has falsehoods. Thus, the entire books is false. Thus, Trump is a stable genius.

  • Jerryskids||

    We all know every single word in this book is pure garbage by a lying liar, the author even said so in the prologue. Well, obviously except for the part where the lying liar admitted he was a lying liar. And the part where he said Steve Bannon was talking shit about Trump. Those two things are gospel truth.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    If you are not going to be a serious journalist and have integrity to write a piece about someone else, then why would people want to buy your toilet paper or take you seriously?

    The media hates that massive amounts of Americas are literally ignoring the lefty media and mocking them.

  • Tony||

    A historic proportion of Americans have a negative opinion of the president at this point in his time in office.

    Don't pretend that you idiots ever cared about truth before.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Only a lefty idiot like you would understand that Nixon's popularity rating was far lower which is one reason that he resigned.

    historical presdential approval ratings
    These stats are not even correct but they are probably consistently inaccurate over all the listed presidents.

    The pollsters have been proven wrong as in elections 2016. Not wrong by a few points but way off.

    The left hates Trump and he is unpopular with them. All their media hacks push this narrative.

    Trump supporters and people who like Trump rolling back government have Trump very popular. I didn't vote for Trump but will in 2020 if he needs his numbers boosted. Georgia was Trump's so I voted for Gay-Jay.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Dilbert cartoonist, who is as unlibertarian as Tony, has a blog up about Trump's popularity figures.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Now, I'm all for freedom of speech, but... we can't just reflexively take an absolutist position. Words...hurt. And if propaganda didn't work, it wouldn't exist, therefore, propaganda always works and hurts people, QED.

    So, we should probably protect free speech, but also have a common sense, adult conversation in this country about speech control. But, free speech is probably a good idea... for now.

    I promise I'm not an asshole.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Call me when his bluster turns to actual criminal investigations like a certain former president who's actions actually threatened reporters for reporting things that made the admin. uncomfortable.

  • ||

    At the very least, we've got to prioritize. Get to the bottom of the Russia investigation first. Find out exactly how many hookers he peed on, facebook ads he approved, and how many ballet boxes he stuffed. Then we can worry about the media's ability to liberally spread filthy truths and lies that make him look bad.

  • chemjeff||

    I long for the day when we can judge a politician's statements and actions on their own merits, and not by constantly always referring to his/her predecessor's actions and statements.

  • Rebel Scum||

    I long for a day in which we can distinguish statements and actions and not be hypocrites.

  • Ron||

    Libertarian world, sue to get to solvea problem instead of making law, unless its Trump of course

  • Ken Shultz||

    Trump has been mastering the headlines since he was working the tabloids in his favor back in the '80s.

    This wasn't an assault on anything.

    This is about creating a spectacle. Environmentalist and animal rights groups do this stuff all the time.

    They sued the owner of the gorilla selfie on behalf of the gorilla--saying that the photo belonged to the gorilla. The purpose wasn't to win a game changing court decision that affirms animal rights. The purpose was to generate headlines and get people talking about the treatment of animals.

    That was it.

    Likewise, Trump wasn't really about to go after a publisher for lying about the president.

    He was generating headlines signaling to his followers that all these allegations were bullshit.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The Situationist International taught us nothing if not that although you can't control what the media says about you, you can control what the media talks about. You just have to give them a spectacle to cover, and they'll cover it.

    Animal rights groups understand this. Every time you see a headline about something ridiculous they're doing (they once sued the California Dairy Association for false advertising for claiming, "Great cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows come from California". They didn't really expect to win a case forcing the CDA to prove that cows in California were happy . . .), it isn't because they're ridiculous or stupid. It's a tactic to manipulate the media into covering their issues.

    They expected everyone who hates them react to the headlines about them suing the CDA by blogging about it, forwarding stories about it, and talking about the treatment of cows.

    Donald Trump isn't about violating the First Amendment.

    He's about using the media to counter their own narrative.

    When you take him seriously and accuse him of going after the First Amendment, like it or not, you're carrying water for him. Trump is trolling you. Can't you see that?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Another thing about this is that defamation laws have been around since the USA was founded and so these are current laws.

    Don't like them fine, but until then they are laws that people can sue when Defendants publish malicious lies about someone.

    The left has been trying to change the game after the fact when all parties knew the rules. All because of losing to Trump. Americans are sick of this lefty tactic as it goes against American's sense of fair play and playing by the rules.

  • Mickey Rat||

    So Doherty is against fraud being legally actionable, because that is what libel and slander are, species of fraud.

    For instance, he is suggesting that Rolling Stine should not be held legally accounrable to anyone for the "Jackie" story, despite it being a malicious attempt from the start to publically shame the University of Virginia administration on the issue of campus sexual assault and so was egregiously sloppy in getting a story to run.

    We are currently in an era where journalist are increasingly agenda driven while being professionally unethical, and Doherty wants to end a way to hold journalists accountable. Not exactly the climate to call for that.

  • IceTrey||

    Lies are not free speech.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Do we should have the U.S. mail seize all DemoGOP platforms?

  • Azathoth!!||

    Can't see anything that violates any amendments here--or anything threatening free speech.

    Just someone trying to make it clear that ALL Americans get to use libel laws.

  • Brian Whittle||

    I'm glad Queen Hillary isn't president, I just wish it hadn't lumbered the US with Donnie.

  • Empress Trudy||

    He's not demanding a book disappear he's demanding that a book that trots itself out as being more or less factually accurate be made to be factually accurate or they can put a sticker on the dustcover that says 'This is entirely bullshit'. Either one. The issue isn't free speech, the issue is whether you can say such and such represents interviews that happened and this what they said when none of that ever happened. If Michael Wolff wrote a book saying that Trump was an armband wearing Nazi, had given the keynote speech at several Nazi rallies and personally called for the extermination of all the black people, and none of that was remotely true or accurate, but CNN decided for political purposes to run with it in order to topple the government, would THAT be a free speech soapbox that Reason magazine would stand on for ideological reasons?

  • Longtobefree||

    "In short: The president of the United States is demanding a book critical of him disappear from public view under threat of legal punishment."

    Actually, the article says Trump's LAWYER is telling the publisher that there may be a lawsuit filed, as required by the current judicial process. Trump is not demanding anything. As a courtesy, the lawyer is also letting the publisher know of several options that might reduce their financial exposure.
    Happens all the time.

  • Rockabilly||

    "Fire & Fury" is the beta male feminist progressive marxists' favorite stroke book.

    It's the one that gets them the hottest!

  • whatsapp plus||

    thsnks

  • BambiB||

    yeah... I disagree. Defamation laws have a legitimate role. Unless you prefer people to simply kill each other.

  • Ishmael||

    SNAFU, again Reason. Defamation is demonstrable lies to smear the reputation of a person - not opinion, which this book portends not to be; and not anything not true, which has even been admitted by this author - whom to call a "Journalist" is to denigrate even Glenn Beck, whose 'Journalist' credit kind of makes me throw up a little, in the back of my throat.

    This applies to Slander and Liable, which is what Bezos & Zuckerburg (sp?) Do EVERY minute, whilst claiming 'defamation'... which seems what Brian - once again, to my chagrin! - is doing. How about moving to AOL with your like minded fake news buddies, so my subscription services, and others don't have to see 'sponsored content' all the damn time, due to your lack of Reason Mission Statements about 'Journalist Ethics' & "Libertarian Values", unlike your RESIST / BAMN missives?!

    Yeah, Brian, you're a 'Never Trumper, Ultra-Lib' with absolutely NO respect for Equality Under the Law. Slander is Slander!

  • MikeP2||

    "Whether or Not Trump's Libel Threat Violates the First Amendment, It's Clearly an Assault on Free Speech"

    Overwrought nonsense Brian. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    First Amendment concerns government action. Did not Trump use his personal lawyer and raise use of the same court/libel system that us meager citizens use. How is that government action, and not directly equivalent to the recourse that everyone else in the country has use of?

    And "assault on free speech". more nonsense. Libel laws exist for a reason and have for many many years. If anything, they are almost meaningless relative to free speech where public figures are concerned. the hurdle is extremely high to prove libel or defamation against a public figure, but if it can be, then it should most certainly be used.

  • MikeP2||

    Assault on the first amendment: POTUS sending the IRS or using other governmental levers/leaks to make life miserable for private citizens who speak out against the government. Remember Joe the Plumber, Gibson Guitar, reports of repeated audits of large GOP donors, the tea party-IRS fiasco, etc, etc.

    Not Assault on the first amendment: POTUS threatening to use the same legal recourse any citizen of the US is able to use to seek protection from libelous speech.

  • Shoreline1||

    I support free speech, but I support accurate free speech. It is illegal for a citizen to lie to our government, yet perfectly legal for government officials to lie to the citizenry. Obviously, we need to remove references to sapience in our species nomenclature.

  • Lester224||

    Good one: "Mexico will pay for the wall."

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good idea, but I have yet to see a witness swear to "tell this government court as much truth as this government tells me."

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Who knew that Presidents are mandated to surrender personal rights, such as the right to defend their good names, when inaugurated.

  • Hank Phillips||

    It's hard to get as worked up as Brian over statements made by a politician for a lying party. But the Sedition Act link was revealing. The bond requirement says the defendant "may be holden to find sureties" (cough up bond) while the Democratic platform threatens to "find revenue" (rob taxpayers). More interesting is nullification language empowering the jury "to determine the law and the fact under direction of the court". Does that mean a nullification limitation or simply another mock trial with a show jury ordered by a judge to recite the verdict he directs?

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    I fail to find that clause in the Constitution that requires the Executive Officer of the United States Government to handover his right to defend his good name from libel and slander upon taking office.

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