These Are the Stories That Made Trump Want to Change Libel Laws


Donald Trump launched a clueless salvo at the press today, promising to "take a strong look" at the nation's libel laws.

"President Trump's threat to revise our country's libel laws is, frankly, not credible", the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Speaking at a White House Cabinet meeting, Trump said the goal of the effort would be "so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts". He can look all he wants, but he can't do anything about it. Cue cable news fainting anyway.

In what was seen as an attempt to show Trump is mentally fit and in command, the president had kept a pool of reporters, including a TV camera, inside of a meeting he had on Tuesday with United States lawmakers on immigration. After the president warned that he could look into changing the #libel laws in the country, one host on #Fox News was quick to speak out [VIDEO].

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As a public figure, he would have a high threshold to prove a libel claim.

"I'm sure their ratings were fantastic; they always are - which is why I think the media will ultimately support Trump in the end, because they're going to say, if Trump doesn't win in three years, they're all out of business". "Look, the president is upset and frustrated with the misreporting and fake news that regularly takes place. You wouldn't have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes to your head". No lawsuit has yet been filed. Just last week, Trump's private attorneys sent a threatening letter to the publisher of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" just before publication, warning of libel liability if the book were released - which of course it was.

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Trump has floated changes to libel statutes in response to negative media coverage in the past, saying in October that it's "disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write". Under current US libel and defamation laws, which staunchly protect the First Amendment, would-be plaintiffs must prove that a media company knowingly and purposefully published false information, which is a very high bar to clear.

State courts and state legislatures are responsible for codifying protections against libel and defamation.

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In the University of Chicago Law School journal, Chicago Unbound, now-Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in 1993 published a paper saying that the underlying reality of the case in Times v. Sullivan was a "governmental suppression of critical speech".