The Michael Wolff book which is “stirring” the Washington pot to “ramming speed” has gone on sale. And numerous sources describe Donald J Trump as furious. But, as usual, we don’t need anonymous sources to confirm Trump’s feelings on anything. He, himself, always takes to the “twitter” board to tell us from the “Horse’s Mouth” how he feels.
He tweeted in part: “I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him…”
What to do abut it? So far, Trump’s initial actions only got the publication date moved up.
Trump instructed his lawyers to demand that the publisher “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book…”– he never has understood what James Madison meant in writing about Freedom of the Press.
Then, he promised to sue for defamation and libel the author, publisher and probably the copy editor, cab drivers who carried Wolff on his weekly visit to Washington to gather material and everyone else who could in any way be attached to Wolff’s devious enterprise. Any good lawyer will tell you that you sue everyone possible in hopes that someone’s connection will stick in court and to ensure that anyone who has some money is placed in the potential “killing zone.”
In this case, suing won’t work as I’ll explain in a moment but I do have a suggestion for how Trump might make one last, desperate attempt to be “rid of this meddlesome” book.
Burn it, burn all the books! More on that later.
Actually, the book does not tell us much about Trump we didn’t already know. It had already been widely reported that his Secretary of State had privately called him a “F…ing Moron,” his National Security Advisor and called him a “Dope” and an “Idiot” so when the book quotes Steve Bannon as saying he ”acts like a nine year old” no one is shocked.
However, there are some new delicious “morsels.”
For example, the book quotes Sam Nunberg, a campaign aide who was given the job of explaining the Constitution of the United States to Trump (clearly an impossible, thankless job) as saying “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.” But we already knew from many sources that Trump has the attention span of a gnat
In sum, the book reinforces the commonly held view that Donald Trump is wildly and dangerously unfit for office.
So Trump wants to sue? If he sued everyone in this Country who holds that view, upwards of two thirds of our population would be hauled into court.
Let’s examine his chances of winning such a suit.
In addition to not knowing James Madison, Trump has clearly never heard of L. B. Sullivan, who, in 1960, was the Public Safety Commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama.
That year the New York Times published a full page advertisement from a group soliciting funds to defend Martin Luther King, Jr., which described rough actions committed by the Montgomery police department against civil rights protestors.
Sullivan sued the Times for libel on grounds that though he was not directly named everyone knew he supervised the department. He won in the Alabama court (naturally) but Earl Warren’s court said “you lose (it was 9 to 0)” and in that case, established a high bar for winning a defamation or libel suit against a “public figure,” which Sullivan was.
Trump, being the most public of all public figures, must prove that the book’s author demonstrated a “reckless disregard” for the truth and, moreover, published his work with “malice,” that is published it with the actual intent to injure him.
Can you imagine Wolff’s defense lawyers subpoenaing the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser and others and under oath asking if they can deny calling him a “F…ing Moron,” “Dope and Idiot,” and acting “like a nine year old?”
Of course, such a suit might be thrown out by a judge for lack of merit before ever getting to the point of testimony but Trump has a history of being the “Gatling gun” of defamation suits regardless of the merits or the evidence.
Consider Trump’s 2006, suit against Timothy L. O’Brien, then a business reporter for the New York Times who had written a book about Trump.
The book was actually pretty kind to Trump. Trump was not labeled a Moron or Dope or accused of wanting to grab women by their private parts or anything that most people would believe was defamatory but O’Brien, using various sources, had concluded that whereas Trump was claiming in those days to be worth several Billion dollars his net worth was actually more on the order of 150 to 250 Million.
Outraged, Trump said that defamed him and he sued for libel!
Trump was subjected to a deposition under oath in which he hilariously said he basically computed his net worth day by day on how he felt about the world on any given day. And, he had to turn over documents including his tax returns.
The Courts kept throwing out the suit on the grounds there was no “clear and convincing evidence” of liable under the Sullivan Rule. After spending about a million dollars on the suit, Trump finally gave up.
Fortunately for Trump, the Courts sealed all the documents so O’Brien, who saw Trump’s tax returns through 2005, can’t tell us what was in them. But last year O’Brien gave a number of interviews in which he said there are basically three things from anyone’s tax returns someone would be interested in.
First, how much Income was claimed. Second, what Deductions were taken. And Third, how much and to whom did the individual owe money (as required of Corporate tax returns).
O’Brien said that third point was important if the individual held or sought an office of public trust which required the individual to make decisions objectively, not based on personal considerations.
Ho, ho. Got it Tim. That was a hint well putin, er, I mean put.
Finally, if Trump feels so strongly about Wolff’s book, he should, as I say, burn it. Buy every copy printed and burn them all.
There is a precedent.
On May 10, 1933, books by Brecht, Einstein, Freud, Mann, Remarque and many others were burned all over Germany in huge bonfires. Whether there were “very fine people on both sides” of those fires is debatable but they were certainly effective in getting rid of books the Nazi’s didn’t like.
But then, come to think of it, you probably couldn’t make that tactic work here today.
In 1933, no new books could be printed in Germany to replace the ones burned. But today, Wolff’s publisher Holt & Company would probably just keep on printing books until Trump had no money left with which to buy them.
Still, Trump never likes to give up, always wants to be a winner.
Perhaps he could get a loan from his friend.