for real this time
February 26, 2020

President Trump loves to threaten lawsuits against the media, but it looks like he's now actually filing one.

The Trump campaign announced Wednesday it's suing The New York Times for libel over a 2019 opinion column, "The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo" by Max Frankel. In the op-ed, Frankel writes "there was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin's oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration's burdensome economic sanctions."

The campaign's legal adviser claims these statements were "100 percent false and defamatory" and the Times "was aware of the falsity at the time it published them." Axios notes that to win this lawsuit, the campaign would need to prove the Times acted with "actual malice," which is usually a "high bar" to clear. As CNBC's Christina Wilkie wrote, the "suit claims the Times must've known the *March 2019* op-ed was false because of what was in the *April 2019* Mueller report."

The Times said Wednesday the Trump campaign has "turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable." But "fortunately," the Times added, "the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance."

Trump has long threatened to sue media organizations for coverage he dislikes, but he generally hasn't ended up following through. As for why, The Washington Post explained in 2018 when Trump threatened to sue the Times over a story about his taxes that "he would be required as part of the discovery process to provide private financial documents that he has long resisted making public."

This is something pundits noted on Wednesday, with The Daily Beast's Harry Siegel tweeting, "The Times has to be licking its lips thinking about discovery here if the suit gets that far." Brendan Morrow

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