Trump campaign sues CNN

I have to admit that the lawsuit that the Trump campaign promises to launch against CNN seems like a long shot to me.  Or, as the media like to say about lawsuits of which they approve, it is an "innovative" or "path-breaking" legal strategy.

But winning a jury verdict may be beside the point.  The prospect of examining internal documents and compelling testimony under oath promises rich material for political gain.  The rules of civil litigation offer far more flexibility than government prosecution when it comes to gathering evidence.

Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner:

Outraged by secretly taped anti-Trump comments attributed to CNN President Jeff Zucker and others at the cable network, President Trump's campaign is vowing to sue the company for "a substantial payment of damages."

In a four-page letter to CNN, Zucker, and Executive Vice President David Vigilante, Trump attorney Charles J. Harder cited years of anti-Trump bias at the network and claimed the cable giant has broken its promise of "excellence in journalism."

Listing several examples from the just-released Project Veritas videotapes of CNN insiders describing Zucker's demand for "impeachment above all else," Harder wrote that they "are merely the tip of the iceberg of the evidence my clients have accumulated over recent years."

He added, "Never in the history of this country has a President been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called 'mainstream' news, as the current situation."

Here is the tweet from the campaign explaining the legal basis:

The Lanham Act (text here) is a 1946 law mostly about protection of trademarks but also including false advertising, so I assume that CNN allegedly is representing itself as a news source when it is in fact shown to be a propaganda operation by the Project Veritas videos, would be the basis of the lawsuit.  The harm that the Trump campaign experienced from CNN's false reporting, misrepresented to the public as "news," would be the basis for damages.

If the case isn't thrown out of court on a defense motion, it would open up the process of discovery and deposition to be used to subpoena corporate records and put managers and correspondents under oath and ask them questions, presumably while videotaping their testimony.

Lawfare has primarily been a tool of the Left.  But it works both ways.

Update:

Joe DiGenova, who knows roughly a million times as much as I do about the law, sees a strong case, in the Daily Caller (hat tip: Roger Luchs):

CNN staffers were caught on tape admitting that their network "is totally left-leaning" while pretending that's not the case. The employees say it's an unwritten rule that conservatives and even centrists are not welcome at CNN, that they are well aware of how biased anchors such as Don Lemon are, and that CNN President Jeffery [sic] Zucker has a "personal vendetta" against the president of the United States.

Most damning of all, though, are their repeated claims that it's their job to constantly pretend that all of the above is not true. They have to act as though the Democratic talking points and wild speculation they put on screen is straight, unbiased reporting.

The Project Veritas videos prove that CNN's executives are well aware that their outlet's partisan agenda is directly at odds with the image they sell to advertisers and the general public, and have gone to great lengths to conceal their deception. Armed with direct evidence of that, Trump is going to ask the courts to legally declare CNN fake news.

There is precedent for this type of action against a purported news outlet. In 1993, for example, actor Clint Eastwood took The National Enquirer to court for falsely claiming to have an "exclusive interview" he never gave. Eastwood won, and the Lanham Act was a central basis of that outcome.

Because of America's broad press protections under First Amendment precedent, it is very difficult for a public figure like the president to reach the standard necessary to win a court judgment for defamation or libel when media outlets lie. But when they lie to their own viewers and advertisers about the true nature of their business — the very basis of their mission as a news outlet — a media network such as CNN could be found guilty under Lanham Act claims.

I am very happy if my judgment about the prospect of victory was too pessimistic.

 

 

I have to admit that the lawsuit that the Trump campaign promises to launch against CNN seems like a long shot to me.  Or, as the media like to say about lawsuits of which they approve, it is an "innovative" or "path-breaking" legal strategy.

But winning a jury verdict may be beside the point.  The prospect of examining internal documents and compelling testimony under oath promises rich material for political gain.  The rules of civil litigation offer far more flexibility than government prosecution when it comes to gathering evidence.

Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner:

Outraged by secretly taped anti-Trump comments attributed to CNN President Jeff Zucker and others at the cable network, President Trump's campaign is vowing to sue the company for "a substantial payment of damages."

In a four-page letter to CNN, Zucker, and Executive Vice President David Vigilante, Trump attorney Charles J. Harder cited years of anti-Trump bias at the network and claimed the cable giant has broken its promise of "excellence in journalism."

Listing several examples from the just-released Project Veritas videotapes of CNN insiders describing Zucker's demand for "impeachment above all else," Harder wrote that they "are merely the tip of the iceberg of the evidence my clients have accumulated over recent years."

He added, "Never in the history of this country has a President been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called 'mainstream' news, as the current situation."

Here is the tweet from the campaign explaining the legal basis:

The Lanham Act (text here) is a 1946 law mostly about protection of trademarks but also including false advertising, so I assume that CNN allegedly is representing itself as a news source when it is in fact shown to be a propaganda operation by the Project Veritas videos, would be the basis of the lawsuit.  The harm that the Trump campaign experienced from CNN's false reporting, misrepresented to the public as "news," would be the basis for damages.

If the case isn't thrown out of court on a defense motion, it would open up the process of discovery and deposition to be used to subpoena corporate records and put managers and correspondents under oath and ask them questions, presumably while videotaping their testimony.

Lawfare has primarily been a tool of the Left.  But it works both ways.

Update:

Joe DiGenova, who knows roughly a million times as much as I do about the law, sees a strong case, in the Daily Caller (hat tip: Roger Luchs):

CNN staffers were caught on tape admitting that their network "is totally left-leaning" while pretending that's not the case. The employees say it's an unwritten rule that conservatives and even centrists are not welcome at CNN, that they are well aware of how biased anchors such as Don Lemon are, and that CNN President Jeffery [sic] Zucker has a "personal vendetta" against the president of the United States.

Most damning of all, though, are their repeated claims that it's their job to constantly pretend that all of the above is not true. They have to act as though the Democratic talking points and wild speculation they put on screen is straight, unbiased reporting.

The Project Veritas videos prove that CNN's executives are well aware that their outlet's partisan agenda is directly at odds with the image they sell to advertisers and the general public, and have gone to great lengths to conceal their deception. Armed with direct evidence of that, Trump is going to ask the courts to legally declare CNN fake news.

There is precedent for this type of action against a purported news outlet. In 1993, for example, actor Clint Eastwood took The National Enquirer to court for falsely claiming to have an "exclusive interview" he never gave. Eastwood won, and the Lanham Act was a central basis of that outcome.

Because of America's broad press protections under First Amendment precedent, it is very difficult for a public figure like the president to reach the standard necessary to win a court judgment for defamation or libel when media outlets lie. But when they lie to their own viewers and advertisers about the true nature of their business — the very basis of their mission as a news outlet — a media network such as CNN could be found guilty under Lanham Act claims.

I am very happy if my judgment about the prospect of victory was too pessimistic.