Friday, October 14, 2016

Why Donald Trump is the Last Person on the Planet to Think about Suing Anybody for Libel

by Nomad

After all of the malicious accusations, Donald Trump has dished out during this campaign, the very idea that he would threaten anybody with libel might seem highly improbable and incredibly hypocritical. 

Just when you thought things could get any more repulsive and disgusting, more allegations regarding sexual misconduct by the currently hard-pressed Donald Trump have come to light. In all five women have come forward to say that Trump sexually assaulted them.

These latest claims fly in the face of Trump's defense that his "hot-mic" comments were merely boys being boys and not actually sexual assault. Women now claim that Trump did more than just talk about it, but put words into actions.

Blustering and Bullying

Trump libel lawyer

Almost immediately, Donald Trump's attorney demanded both a retraction and an apology from the New York Times. The letter from Lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz called the article "reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel."
"It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of your article, that it is nothing more than a politically motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump's candidacy."

Outside of Trump's adamant denials, there's nothing in the way of counter proof to show that the allegations are untrue. Not even any direct repudiation from the nominee. The allegations are untrue, says the attorney, simply because the individuals did not come forward until now. The statements by the two women are labeled "false and defamatory" and the claims are merely part of a "smear."

The letter concludes with a suitable amount of legal bluster. 
"We hereby demand that you immediately cease any further publication of this article, remove it from your website and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology. Failure to do so will leave my client with no option but to purse all available actions and remedies."
If Trump thought his lawyers could frighten the New York Times, he clearly miscalculated. New York Times general counsel David McCraw called Trump's bluff and ruled out retracting the story.
The GOP nominee has used this bullying tactic before. However, there will be a heavy price to pay if Trump attempts to pursue any legal action. As CNN points out:
If the Trump campaign does proceed with lawsuits, it will give both the Times and the Post the opportunity to pursue discovery and request information on Trump's entire sexual history, because Trump would have the burden of proving falsity and actual malice.
Ah yes, the Oscar Wilde scenario.

When you think about, and consider the kind of campaign Trump has chosen to run, the very mention of the word "libel" from Trump, his family or anybody who works under him is jaw-dropping. 

No siree, he has not been shy about making malicious and untrue statements. The man who yesterday released the legal hounds of hell is the very same candidate who spent years slandering the president with his birtherism lies. The same man who then, when admitting his theory that Obama was not born in the US was all a hoax, carried on by slandering Clinton, falsely claiming that she was responsible for the birther hoax. 

Trump's ability to spin "a near-endless series of falsehoods" has, for the most part, kept him one step ahead of the fact-checkers. From the start of his run for office, Trump has been willing to use any falsehood against his challengers, first the Republicans and then the Democrat. And eventually, it came down to just about anybody that crossed him. 

Anybody who stood in his way or offended him was likely to feel Trump's wrath and the sting of Trump's fabricated accusations.

Candidate Trump

The Vander Plaats Example

Here's a notable example. (There are however probably hundreds to choose from.)

Back in January, Trump unleashed a series of tweets aimed at the evangelic leader, Bob Vander Plaats after Plaats endorsed Ted Cruz. Trump tweeted that Vander Plaats had "begged him to do an event while asking organizers for $100,000 for himself."
Trump went on to call the CEO of the Family Leader “phony” and a “bad guy.”

That's an extremely bold accusation to make without some pretty strong evidence to back it up. Such an allegation against a person whose public reputation is a key factor in his professional life. Trump apparently didn't worry about those finer points.

Eventually, the full story came out. The Des Moines Register revealed that it was actually Trump who asked for and was paid $100,000 and the paper also confirmed that Vander Plaats received nothing.
Let me repeat that.
Contrary to his tweeted version, Trump had charged the organizers money for his presence at the 2015 conference. At the time, Vander Plaats had actually warned Trump that “he should not be charging to come into Iowa" and that it could leave a bad impression with voters. 
Trump paid no never mind and pocketed the cash.

In his twitter rampage, Trump had intentionally reversed the key points of the story. The truth was that Trump was maliciously lying about the event and about Plaats in order to punish him for supporting Cruz.
Vander Plaats told The Des Moines Register in response.
"He will burn anybody." 
"Anybody" is the operative word here.
It's a textbook example of why libel and slander laws are necessary.

For Trump. this is, in fact, but one example in a career based on slander and misrepresentation. All in all, libel- or slander- would, you might think, be a subject that a vitriolic man like Trump would want to steer clear from.

Dirty tricks Roger Stone

Trump's Dirty Tool: Roger Stone  

Either in tweets or before a credulous audience, libeling and slandering have become useful tools for Trump.

In some respects, Trump's modus operandi was established early in his presidential run. When his longtime friend and closest political advisor, Roger Stone appeared to quit (or to have been fired) in August 2015. 
Wise guys theorized that Stone's departure was all a bit of theater so as to provide Trump with a conveniently-covert dirty trickster tool as well as the plausible deniability to sling as much mud as Trump wanted.  

Stone, with all the instincts (and morality) of a bull shark, received his political education as a protege of the equally repulsive Roy Cohn- the destroyer of many a fine person's well-being and career. 
Stone has, as far as anybody could see, never given a second thought to libel laws. As Media Matters pointed out:
Stone himself is an ardent conspiracy theorist. He recently floated the theory that the Clintons had four people murdered over the summer, which dovetails with his previously stated claim that the couple is “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people. Stone has also alleged that the Bush family “tried to kill” President Ronald Reagan, that President Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was involved in the killing as well – a theory that was pushed by Donald Trump.
Stone's conspiracy theories are designed to exploit the prejudices, the fears and the suspicions of the less informed or misinformed. That's not to say that Stone truly believes this assemblage of half-baked and not very plausible scenarios. The important thing is that 51% of the voting population believes it. 

It is technically true that Stone has no official role in Trump's campaign. It is also accurate that his committee has not been endorsed by the Trump campaign. Nevertheless, only the most gullible would think that Stone and Trump don't operate as a tag- team. 

Trump cited Stone’s book for his claim that Hillary Clinton "went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously, according to the women and according to other sources."
Outside of one woman's subjective interpretation of "a thank you," and a harsh comment about another woman's actual motive for making the sexual assault claim, there's has been no real evidence that Clinton "went after" any of the women. It's all cheap innuendo manufactured expressly for the purpose of damaging Clinton's campaign, specifically her appeal to women. 

Stone creates it, Fox News reports it as an allegation and Trump advertises it at his rallies as fact. Instantly, a million tweets make an unbelievable lie into a something very similar to the truth.
 *   *   *
Clinton rape accusers Trump
When it comes to collaboration between Stone and Trump, it would be extremely naive not to assume they are in regular communication. Roger Stone's super PAC reportedly paid $2,500 to Kathy Shelton, an Arkansas woman raped as a child (not by Bill Clinton ) but by a man whom once Hillary Clinton, as a lawyer, represented in court, to attend the second debate in St. Louis.
It was a silly and shameful plan from the inception. Nevertheless, Trump was there to welcome the women at a press conference before the second debate. 

The payment, first reported by the Associated Press, came in May from the Committee to Restore America's Greatness PAC. Campaign finance records describe it as being made for "contract labor.” 
Any direct coordination between campaigns and super-PACs is illegal. Then again, that rule has become something of an inside joke in this election.

Stone and the Mouthpiece Jones

Trump's unfounded (and destructive) claims that the elections are "rigged" are actually a product of the minds of Roger Stone and noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars. That's impossible to verify, of course, but if it didn't actually start with the pair, then it has certainly been given borrowed wings to fly with their help.

The often hysterical and generally unhinged Jones has been described as "a mouthpiece of domestic paranoia with a megaphone that reaches millions."  As far as the rigged election idea, who knows where it actually originated? Trump was promoting the idea all over the country. Meanwhile, Jones and Stone were doing the same on the airwaves. 
In the end, it doesn't make much difference. 

There's no question that Stone and Jones clearly think alike, and both always ready to climb into the latrines and parade whatever they find there for the sake of the fringe audiences.

Alex JonesJones, in the past, hasn't minded making a fool of himself. In fact, he has long specialized in cockamamy ideas such as Justice Antonin Scalia's death was murder and that the government has a 'weather weapon' that 'can create and steer groups of tornadoes.'
He has called Hillary Clinton a "demon" (not figuratively but literally a demon) because a fly landed on her face.
Like Stone, Alex Jones espouses the theory that Clintons have somehow managed to off about two dozen victims (give or take a dozen) and escape justice after years of countless Republican investigations.

At one point in August, Stone and Jones could actually be heard on Jones' show discussing the possibility that the vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, Huma Abedin, was a Saudi asset and whether her lady parts were mutilated because she is a Muslim-American.

Incitement and Lies

And it just got a lot worse too.
If the latest reports are true, Jones has taken now Trump's campaign (and the Republican Party) down several more notches.

On September 30, Jones reportedly offered $1,000 to anyone who could get him or herself pictured on television wearing a “Bill Clinton rape” t-shirt  -merchandise Jones sells for 20 bucks on his InfoWars website. Those who can be heard shouting “Bill Clinton is a rapist” while donning the shirt, will receive $5,000. The shirt was, incidentally, designed by- wait for it- Roger Stone. 
“Wear it. Get aggressive. Start the conversations. Get on TV with it.”
According to an item in Vocativ, it didn't take long for the results of this incitement to pay off.
Less than 24 hours later, the first supporter materialized during a live broadcast of Fox & Friends in Midtown Manhattan. As show hosts Tucker Carlson, Abby Huntsman, and Ed Henry introduced a segment on animal shelters, a shifty onlooker behind them suddenly ripped open his button-down dress shirt to reveal a Clinton rape tee beneath. The man, who appeared to be in his twenties, then sprung toward the guard railing shouting “Bill Clinton is a rapist” five times before security managed to drag him off the set.
According to that article, Jones and Stone have now fomented a gang of hecklers- who "have since managed to sneak shirts, signs, and chants bearing the Clinton rape accusation onto MSNBC, CNN, and The Today Show."
More emboldened agitators have gone so far as to wade into enemy territory by appearing at major campaign events in support of Hillary Clinton.
"Deplorable" is really too kind a word.
As a propaganda/agitation machine, the Trump-Stone-Jones nexus has been able to excel at making this election one of the most disgusting exhibitions anybody could have imagined. 

 “Purposely Negative and Horrible and False"

Rather amazingly, all of Trump's dirty tricks and lies haven't stopped him from vowing to "open up" libel laws as the future president.In February, at a Texas rally, he told his supporters that he wanted to make it easier to sue news organizations for “purposely negative and horrible and false articles.” 
Sense the irony of that statement?

A month later, In a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board , he repeated his proposal to “loosen up” libel laws but declined to say exactly how he would do so, or what he thinks the standard for libel should be. 

Legal experts said that Trump’s comments should alarm all Americans who care about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It's the stuff of Third World tyrants and, given the constitutional protection of the free press, Trump's remarks about changing libel standards- as foolish and hopeless as they are- do tell us a lot about the man running for office. 

Thankfully, Trump's ideas about tampering with the free press have zero chance of becoming reality. The Constitution will doubtless survive the Trump challenge.
The unanimous 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Times vs. Sullivan states that the First Amendment does not protect statements made with "actual malice.” 
Conversely, Trump's attorney would have to prove that the journalist knew the allegations of sexual shenanigans were untrue and, despite that, published them with the expressed intention of defaming Trump's reputation.  

Trump appears to be doing a rather spectacular job of that without any help from New York Times reporters.