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Verdicts & Settlements

Federal Judge Tosses Trump Campaign’s Libel Lawsuit Against CNN

— November 13, 2020

The Trump campaign claimed that CNN tried to mislead readers about the president’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 elections.

A federal judge has dismissed the Trump campaign’s libel lawsuit against CNN.

As LegalReader has reported before, the Trump campaign sued CNN over a controversial opinion piece published by Larry Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. In his article, Noble claimed that Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election uncovered significant evidence of Russian interference.

Noble also stated that the Trump campaign had actively solicited Russia’s assistance in overcoming Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

According to Noble, the campaign had “assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

Shortly after Noble’s piece went live, the Trump campaign began pushing back against its take on Russian interference in 2016 as well as potential collusion in 2020. They initially demanded that CNN take down the article and issue a correction.

However, CNN refused to cooperate.

CNN logo. Image via Flickr/user:mohamedn. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“The campaign was therefore left with no alternative but to file this lawsuit to: publicly establish the truth, properly inform CNN’s readers and audience (and the rest of the world) of the true facts, and seek appropriate remedies for the harm caused by CNN’s false reporting and failure to retract and apologize for it,” Trump attorneys wrote in their initial complaint.

In the lawsuit, attorneys claimed that CNN knew that Noble’s claims were false when it published the article; they also argued that CNN has demonstrated a pattern of bias against the commander-in-chief.

Trump, notes Fox, has long had a troubled relationship with CNN—the president has repeatedly condemned the latter outlet as a purveyor of “fake news.” Early in his tenure, Trump also attempted to bar CNN reporters from attending his White House press briefings.

In March, Trump campaign “senior legal adviser” Jenna Ellis told Fox News that CNN’s purpose in putting Noble’s article online was to malign the president and hurt his chances at re-election.

“The complaint alleges CNN was aware of the falsity at the time it published them [and] did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign while misleading its owner reads in the process,” Ellis said, vowing to hold CNN and other supposedly left-wing outlets responsible for their misconduct.

However, U.S. District Judge Michael L. Brown of the Northern District of Georgia found on Thursday that the campaign had insufficient evidence to show CNN had acted with malice in putting Noble’s piece to print.

CNN notes that, in the United States, libel law requires that “alleged defamatory statements” against public figures—such as politicians—be made with “actual malice.” In other words, a speaker, writer, or outlet must have known that a statement was untrue yet opted to publicize it anyway.

“Most of the allegations in the complaint regarding actual malice are conclusory,” Brown wrote.

However, Brown will allow the Trump campaign to file an amended complaint by the end of November.

The Trump campaign was seeking millions of dollars in recompense.


Judge dismisses Trump campaign’s lawsuit against CNN

Judge dismisses Trump’s libel lawsuit against CNN

Trump campaign sues CNN for libel over Russia opinion piece

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