by Jon Queally, staff writer
Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced the behavior of President Donald Trump on Wednesday
after the president's reelection campaign filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Times for an op-ed it published
"Let's be clear," Sanders said in a statement, "we have a president who believes he is above the law and can do and say
whatever he wants without consequences. Donald Trump has ignored the Constitution, disregarded the will of Congress, and
attacked the judiciary."
T he president, Sanders continued, "has called the press the 'enemy of the people,' and now—taking a page from his
dictator friends around the world—is trying to dismantle the right to a free press in the First Amendment by suing the
New York Times for publishing an opinion column about his dangerous relationship with Russia."
(pdf) was filed by the president's 2020 campaign and asserts the Times unlawfully defamed Trump by publishing an op-ed
in March of 2019, written by the newspaper's former executive editor Max Frankel, that speculated "the real
Trump-Russia quid pro quo" didn't need to be proven in a court of law or in Congress, but that the tacit agreement
between Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin could be perceived by examining both private and public
communications known at the time.
"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," Frankel wrote. "The
Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo."
As Axios reports
, the Trump lawsuit, which was filed in the New York State Supreme Court, "claims the article falsely reports a
conspiracy between Trump and Russia and that the Times knowingly published a false narrative."
In their filing, Trump's lawyers argue that the lawsuit is need to "publicly establish the truth, properly inform The Times' readers (and the rest of the world) of the true facts, and seek appropriate remedies for the harm caused by The Times' intentional false reporting."
Trump, many have noted, has a long history of filing libel lawsuits against news outlets and individuals—though he often
fails to follow through with them.
"This suit will be tossed out immediately," said
legal analyst and journalist Jeffrey Toobin. "It's a publicity stunt."
Brian Hauss, staff attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, called the lawsuit "completely
meritless," in a statement to Common Dreams.
"A publisher cannot be held liable for commentary based on public facts," Hauss explained. "If the law were any
different, President Trump himself could be held liable for asserting that the Democrats colluded with Russia."
The Freedom of the Press Foundation characterized the suit as just the latest escalation in Trump's attacks on
BREAKING: Escalating his battle with the press, Trump campaign sues the New York Times for libel over a March 2019
opinion piece on Russian election interference https://t.co/W2cPey9uiM
— Freedom of the Press (@FreedomofPress) February 26, 2020
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In response to the suit, a spokesperson for the Times said: "The Trump Campaign has turned to the courts to try to
punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable. Fortunately, the law protects the right of
Americans to express their judgement and conclusions, especially about events of public importance. We look forward to
vindicating that right in this case."
For his part, Sanders charged that the effort by Trump fits a pattern of authoritarian behavior by the president—whom he
vowed to defeat at the polls in November.
"Enough," he declared. "Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in modern history, and this November we will defeat
him, restore the rule of law, and protect our constitutional rights."
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