The Trump campaign announced Friday that it sued CNN for libel over an opinion article, saying it wants the network to be held “accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against” it.
The big picture: It’s the latest of a series of libel suits by the campaign aimed at media outlets’ opinion articles on issues linked to Russia. Over the last few weeks, the campaign has also sued the New York Times and the Washington Post, alleging similar motives.
The lawsuits dovetail with the president’s ongoing political strategy of targeting major media outlets as foes.
The president is once more represented by the lawyer Charles Harder, known for helping to run media and gossip blog Gawker out of business. Harder previously represented first lady Melania Trump in securing settlements after filing defamation complaints against the Daily Mail and a Maryland blogger. Harder has also threatened litigation against major news organizations, including NPR, for other clients who were subject to critical coverage.
Lawyers at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, where I’ve been conducting my investigation, believe that the policy violates the First Amendment, and in early January issued a letter asking the Justice Department to suspend it. Their reasoning was grounded in well-settled Supreme Court precedent.
Last Friday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was relieved of his duties at the National Security Council for nothing more or less than telling the truth in sworn testimony, provided under subpoena, to the House Intelligence Committee. The Trump Administration has made no effort to portray this decision, or a similar one with respect to his brother, Lt. Col. Yevge Vindman, as anything other than retaliation for Col. Vindman’s testimony.
This retaliation sends a chill through the ranks of government employees and seems plainly intended to do so. It is an affront to the First Amendment.
The State Department has yet to explain or defend its highly unusual decision to remove an NPR reporter from an upcoming trip by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a time when Pompeo is fuming about the public radio network.
NPR’s diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen was supposed to be the radio representative on the plane that will travel with Pompeo to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan in the coming days. He departs for the UK on Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon NPR CEO John Lansing said the State Department “has been unresponsive” to its inquiries.