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Trump Campaign Sues The Washington Post for Asking a Rhetorical Question

The Trump campaign–Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.–filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Jeff Bezos’s The Washington Post, accusing the news outlet of publishing two defamatory op-eds. One of the “defamatory statements” cited was a rhetorical question.

The lawsuit singled out opinion writers Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman for pieces published on June 13, 2019 and June 20, 2019 respectively.

According to the complaint, Sargent’s piece (“Trump just invited another Russian attack. Mitch McConnell is making one more likely”) featured a defamatory claim–namely, that former special counsel Robert Mueller concluded the Trump campaign “tried to conspire with” a “sweeping and systematic” attack by Russia in 2016.

The lawsuit said that, actually, Mueller’s report didn’t say that:

[T]he Mueller Report concluded there was no conspiracy between the Campaign and the Russian government, and no United States person intentionally coordinated with Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

From there, the complaint turned its attention to Waldman’s piece, “Trump: I can win reelection with just my base.” The allegedly defamatory statement in the article was a rhetorical question: “who knows what sort of aid Russia and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign, now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?”

Some immediately noted that lawsuit doesn’t contain a hyperlink, while the article does. The hyperlink on the word “invited” leads to an ABC News transcript of George Stephanopoulos‘ interview of President Donald Trump. During that interview, Trump was asked how his campaign would react “this time around” if Russia or China offered them dirt on opponents. Would they call the FBI or listen, asked the interviewer.

The interviewee replied: Why not both?

Trump said you can listen if Norway calls up and says “we have information on your opponent.”

While the op-ed in the Post appears to be suggesting that Trump, through his own comments to the media, opened the door for any nation to offer assistance to the Trump campaign, the campaign is saying no one literally invited Russia or North Korea to assist the Trump campaign.

“The statement in the June 20 Article is false and defamatory. There has never been any statement by anyone associated with the Campaign or the administration ‘inviting’ Russia or North Korea to assist the Campaign in 2019 or beyond,” the Trump campaign lawsuit said. “There also has never been any reporting that the Campaign has ever had any contact with North Korea relating to any United States election.”

“Finally, despite extensive reporting on the Campaign’s activities, there is not a shred of evidence that there have been any contacts between the Campaign and North Korea, let alone any invitation transmitted to North Korea to interfere in the election,” the suit said later.

The date on the latest lawsuit is March 2, which is the same day Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’s lawyer filed a separate suit accusing The Washington Post of weaponizing its “mighty pen.” Nunes is seeking more than $250,000,000. The Trump campaign suit against WaPo comes roughly one week after the group sued The New York Times over an op-ed.

At least one conservative writer has called the lawsuit against the Times “frivolous.” Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams called the suit “fake” during a Tuesday appearance on The View.

You can read the 8-page complaint in full below. The Trump campaign wants a jury trial and millions of dollars in damages.

Trump campaign lawsuit aga… by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.