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Trump takes the media to court

Donald Trump is doing what scornful detractors always tell a maligned public figure to do: take the media to court.

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Yesterday Donald J. Trump announced his intention to do that which the media scornfully tells any public figure to do, who does not like their coverage of him. He is taking them to court. When he does that, he hopes to lay before a judge clear evidence of collusion between mainstream media organs and the Democratic Party. He also hopes to get a hearing on evidence that the Democratic Party stole the Election of 2020 from him.

The Trump announcement

The announcement came yesterday from Pajamas Media. Donald Trump has retained Washington, D.C.’s Ifrah Law Firm to press his case against the mainstream media. Last week (July 21), Mr. James M. Trusty, the lawyer handling Trump’s case, sent a demand letter to CNN. Mr. Trusty addressed the letter specifically to:

  • Chris Licht, current Chief Executive Officer of CNN, and
  • David Vigilante, Executive Vice-President and General Counsel.

In it he laid out the grievance Trump has with CNN, which is: false and misleading statements about Trump.

In accordance with Florida Statute § 770.02, CNN must publish a full and fair correction, apology, or retraction, in the same editions or corresponding issues of the website publication in which the aforementioned articles, transcripts, or broadcasts appeared and in as conspicuous a place and type as said original article, transcript or broadcast within ten (10) days from the date of service of this notice. Failure to publish such a correction, apology, or retraction will result in the filing of a lawsuit and damages being sought against you, CNN.

Mr. Trusty goes on, for twenty-six pages in all, to list the statements by CNN with which Trump takes issue. After those twenty-six pages come two hundred fifty-six pages of exhibits, reproducing relevant CNN web pages and transcripts.

The 2016 election and the Russia Hoax

The history of false and misleading statements goes back to 2016. After that election, many Democratic Party figures accused Trump of getting Russian hackers to steal the election. Clay Travis assembled and tweeted out ten minutes of footage, which Mr. Trusty cites.

Mr. Trusty also names those Democratic Party figures, and accuses CNN of failing to challenge their assertions that Trump was an illegitimate President. The names are:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Kamala Harris (then Senator from California)
  • Joe Biden
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Jerry Nadler
  • John Lewis
  • Dianne Feinstein (the senior Senator from California)
  • Marcia Fudge
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz

But Mr. Trusty tees up this list mainly to accuse CNN of having a double standard. First, CNN dismissed the statements by Clinton, Harris, Biden, et al. as “just politics,” having no legal weight. But then, CNN quickly coined the phrase “Big Lie” to refer to Trump’s own assertions about the Election of 2020.

Mr. Trusty goes on to show that Trump is not alone in doubting the Election of 2020. As evidence he cites one of two resolutions by the Texas Republican Party at its 2022 Convention. He also cites Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary 2000 Mules and the evidence behind that documentary, from True the Vote.

CNN defamed Trump with full malice

The letter makes the case that CNN refused, without foundation, even to consider that Trump might be correct. According to it, CNN could have examined critically the evidence for and against Trump’s assertions. They could have asked themselves what might make a man genuinely believe someone stole an election from him. But they seem instead to have decided, a priori, that he was lying deliberately. In short, not only did Trump lose fair and square, but he knew it and lied about it anyway.

After that, Mr. Trusty lists thirty-seven CNN articles and broadcast segments, in reverse order of publication or release. All of them say much the same thing: Trump lost, he knew he lost, and he’s worse than a sore loser. The lawyer counts 7,700 repetitions of the phrase “Big Lie” or other assertions that Trump lied deliberately about the election. All these are the elements of malice.

Finally Mr. Trusty leaves two demands, for:

Retraction of the “Big Lie” narrative and all repetitions of it, and

Preservation of documents, both hardcopy and electronic, relating to the story of Trump and the Election of 2020.

The exhibits

Then come the exhibits. Whether they show actionable malice, will be up to a court to decide. (Technically, CNN has until next Monday, August 1, to retract the narrative. Thus far they’ve made no move to do so.) But those exhibits do show that CNN has abandoned all pretense at objectivity. For instance, they repeat the “grab the wheel” story by Cassidy Hutchinson. They also try to portray her as a heroine out of a 1930s movie serial. (Like Torchy Blaine – or Lois Lane from Superman.)

Like the thirty-seven articles Trusty cited in the letter, he lays out thirty-four exhibits in the reverse order of publication. Most of them, again, tell the same story: that

  • Trump lied and is lying about the Election of 2020, and
  • He has convinced too many people for the country’s good that he is telling the truth.

That last part reads like another plea for the “curatorial function” Barack Obama once said the mainstream media used to perform, and should perform again.

But some exhibits lament the failures of Joe Biden’s proposed election reforms, like the “For the People Act.” That Act would have federalized elections, and mandated many of the dubious practices of which Trump complained.

Further evidence from PJ Media and elsewhere

With those exhibits, the Trusty letter ends. But PJ Media left links to other evidence of fraud in the Election of 2020 that Trusty did not mention.

In September 2021, a forensic audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, found ballot irregularities affecting 53,214 ballots. Biden carried Maricopa County by only 10,457 votes.

In March 2022, a judge in Michigan ruled Michigan’s Secretary of State changed absentee ballot rules unilaterally in 2020. That means she exceeded her authority, in violation of Michigan election law.

Georgia has two documented problems. First, as many as 35,000 ballots were illegally cast. Second, the handling of thousands more ballots broke chains of custody.

Mr. Trusty did mention the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s July 8 ruling that ballot drop boxes were illegal.

Last of all, we have the J. Alex Halderman Report that electronic scanner-tabulators were eminently hackable.

Trump, in his full announcement, made clear that CNN would not be his only target:

I have notified CNN of my intent to file a lawsuit over their repeated defamatory statements against me. I will also be commencing actions against other media outlets who have defamed me and defrauded the public regarding the overwhelming evidence of fraud throughout the 2020 Election.

He ended with this:

I will never stop fighting for the truth and for the future of our Country!

Kari Lake, candidate for Governor of Arizona, praised Trump’s announcement yesterday afternoon:

In sum

The President – that is, the real President – is doing exactly the right thing. CNN and other organs have indeed libeled and defamed him, or there’s no such thing as libel or defamation. Even a public figure enjoys protection against actual malice.

Furthermore Trump can rely on a number of salient precedents – like Sandmann v. NBC. True enough, young Mr. Sandmann walked away with a settlement, not a verdict. But the settlement clearly shows that the media wished to avoid a verdict. That verdict might have read that lies about public figures do not qualify as “honest mistakes” beyond a certain point.

Most importantly of all, by filing this lawsuit, Trump gets a judge to weigh two sets of truth claims. Trump says one thing; the mainstream media says another. As it happens, these competing truth claims touch on the integrity of American elections. If a trial of Trump v. CNN et al. can result in a tightening of election procedures, no one can legitimately complain about that.

Last – and most important – Trump’s detractors asked for this confrontation. He’s never gone to court, they said, because he knows the media are telling the truth. Beginning on August 1, those detractors might wish they hadn’t said a word.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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