President Trump’s re-election campaign said Wednesday that it filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times over an opinion piece that claimed Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 election.
The lawsuit is seeking “compensatory damages in the millions” from the newspaper for alleged defamation.
The March 2019 opinion piece by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of the Times, stated: “There was no need for detailed electoral collusion because 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.”
Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to Trump’s campaign, said in a written statement that Frankel’s writings “are 100 percent false and defamatory.”
“The complaint alleges the Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process,” Ellis said.
A Times spokesperson told FOX Business that Trump’s 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 judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to vindicating that right in this case."
The campaign’s complaint points to the Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 election as proof that the Times’ piece was not true. The report said special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation didn’t collect enough evidence to show the existence of a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Russia.
The complaint also points to previous reporting by the Times, published in July of 2017 and May 2018, that downplayed the results of meetings between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who was alleged to have reached out on behalf of the Russian government. The reports quoted that lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, as well as the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
This isn’t the first time Trump has accused the Times of defamation. In 2016, then-candidate Trump threatened to sue the newspaper over a report about two women who accused him of touching them inappropriately. Trump apparently never pursued a suit in that instance.