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Judge Tosses Out Trump’s Lawsuit Against New York Times

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Topline

A New York judge on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit former President Donald Trump filed against the New York Times, a paper he once described as a “true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE,” in the latest unsuccessful attempt by Trump and his allies to sue a media outlet.

Key Facts

Trump’s 2020 campaign first sued the Times last February, alleging an op-ed the paper had printed almost a year prior defamed the campaign by falsely implying Trump’s advisors struck an implicit deal to take help from Russian operatives in 2016.

State court judge James d’Auguste threw out the suit on Tuesday, arguing the op-ed in question was clearly an opinion piece and the Trump campaign failed to demonstrate the Times acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning the campaign can’t refile the suit, though it could theoretically appeal d’Auguste’s decision.

The Times told Forbes it’s “pleased” with d’Auguste’s decision: “The court made clear today a fundamental point about press freedom: we should not tolerate libel suits that are brought by people in power intending to silence and intimidate those who scrutinize them,” Senior Vice President David McCraw wrote in a statement.

Spokespeople for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

Surprising Fact

Last year, the Times asked the court to impose financial penalties on the Trump campaign for filing a lawsuit it deemed frivolous. The paper framed the suit as “part of a toxic, politically motivated strategy” to punish the newspaper for critical reporting. d’Auguste rejected the Times’ request for penalties on Tuesday, but he didn’t offer a detailed explanation.

Key Background

Trump’s relationship with media outlets — especially the Times — has been openly hostile for years. In speeches and tweets, the former president cast the Times and other mainstream outlets as his administration’s chief antagonists, repeatedly threatening lawsuits over reporting he deemed unfair or dishonest. Last year, Trump’s campaign followed through with these threats and filed suit against the Times, the Washington Post and CNN over their coverage of Russian election interference. The CNN suit was dismissed by a federal judge in November, and the Post suit is still pending.

Tangent

In recent years, Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has filed at least eight defamation suits against news outlets, critical constituents and social media companies, most of which have either been dismissed or voluntarily dropped. It’s extremely difficult for public figures like Trump and Nunes to win libel suits in the United States because they need to prove “actual malice,” or reckless disregard for the truth.

Further Reading

Judge Tosses Out Another GOP Lawsuit Against CNN (Forbes)

The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo (New York Times)

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