Donald J. Trump has filed a lawsuit against CNN. He is suing for “defamation” and wants $475 million.
First, Trump does not know what defamation is. Secondly, he doesn’t understand the Constitution’s protection of free speech, expression and association. Thirdly, he obviously is unaware of how the Supreme Court ruled in the New York Times v. Sullivan case in 1964.
The key word in that decision was “malice.”
Those who understand libel law know that a “C” student, as Trump was at Fordham and Pennsylvania, did not exit those institutions knowing what “malice” means. We are also sure that Trump didn’t attend any Constitutional law class when that case was discussed.
And we can assume that his lawyers have been too busy chasing ambulances or hiding top-secret documents in cardboard boxes at Mar-a-Lago to have read the case either.
Simply put, the court ruled that a public office holder or candidate for public office must prove publication of a false defamatory statement and, additionally, prove this defamatory statement was made with “actual malice.”
For Trump and his lawyers to win, the defendant, in this case CNN, must know the statement made was absolutely false or “recklessly disregarded” whether it might be false.
Trump is familiar with “malice,” malicious intent and how those words are applied to outright falsehoods, outright lies.
For example, on election night one-year and 11 months ago, then President Trump announced to the world that he had won the election. Trump knew that was not true. When the Fox News election staff announced that he had lost Arizona, Trump’s people objected vigorously. Fox refused to change its decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden. Numerous recounts and outside investigations proved that call was correct.
The point: Trump and his people lied outright about his winning the election in claiming he had won before over half the votes cast were even counted. He did so, we now know, as part of a strategy bandied about by his friend, convicted felon Roger Stone, who we have on video tape advising Trump supporters to claim their man won no matter what the calls were state by state and regardless if any votes had even been counted.
Stone told people to claim Trump won in order to confuse the matter and support numerous legal attacks by Trump and his people that, in fact, we watched in over 60 different courts around the country — all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. As we all know, not a single Trump victory was recorded.
Can Trump present any real examples of defamatory statements made by any CNN employee on the air? Then can he prove that CNN knew or should have known that the incident was made public with “actual malice”?
Can Trump show “actual malice” by CNN and the other news outlets he says he will also sue for defamation?
Can Trump sue for defamation for anything said or published while he was President? That’s one legal question. Another might be that because he has never admitted defeat, could he be considered a candidate for office? Can he sue for anything said or published that has been proven wrong and for which the defendant has apologized for and corrected?
As Trump is a citizen of Florida and CNN is a corporation in another state he has properly filed his suit in a federal court in Florida. Will the case go before a Trump-appointed judge? We don’t know. Neither does he nor his lawyers.
Whichever judge handles the case, we know one thing — the judge will know what “actual malice” means and will be happy to school Trump’s lawyers. If that is not enough, appellate judges in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta will be happy to define it for Trump’s lawyers, for Trump and for those Americans who believe every word Trump says or posts.
If only Trump had ever read New York Times vs. Sullivan, he wouldn’t be suing.
Raoul Contreras is a U.S. Marine veteran, a political campaign consultant, author and hosts the Contreras Report on YouTube and ROKU TV.