Friday, March 6, 2020

Trump Campaign's Libel Lawsuits Against New York Times and Washington Post

By Eugene Volokh - March 06, 2020 at 11:55AM

I've been slow in posting about these, because I've been occupied with several briefs I've had to finish and file (I hope to blog about them soon), and because I'm still try to run down a few issues related to these libel lawsuits. But Jacob Gershman (Wall St. J.) has a very good story about them; here is the part that conveys my thoughts:

[R]ecent past presidents looked at libel lawsuits as a political loser or beneath their dignity, says Prof. Eugene Volokh …. He said Mr. Trump [departing from this tradition] may have spotted a chance to expose media bias and burnish his image as a politician who fights back.

But his lawsuits aren't without risk, said Mr. Volokh. Mr. Trump and past presidents have avoided testifying as defendants in civil lawsuits by arguing that the proceedings would interfere with their public duties. It would be harder for Mr. Trump to dodge deposition when his campaign is the one doing the suing, said Mr. Volokh….

Should the lawsuits survive motions to dismiss, the Times and the Post would likely get an opportunity to examine and cross-examine Mr. Trump under oath about the articles in question and their assertions about his dealings with Russia …. "It's hard to see how you could resist testifying about that," said Mr. Volokh.

Note that the lawsuits are nominally brought on behalf of the Trump campaign rather than Trump himself, but I doubt that this would keep Trump from being deposed as to the factual allegations on which he may have personal knowledge.


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