Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Trump says administration looking at current libel laws

Trump says administration looking at current libel laws

During his first Cabinet meeting of 2018, Trump called current libel laws "a sham and a disgrace", saying they don't "represent American values or American fairness".

"You can't say things that are false - knowingly false - and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account", the president said.

Conservatives and liberals have largely agreed that there should be a high bar for libel claims from public officials, requiring the officials to show actual malice - or that the news organization knew the claims were false before publishing them. The president echoed an authoritarian overtone toward the First Amendment during Wednesday's public portion of a White House cabinet meeting. "Change libel laws?" he asked in a tweet.

Trump revived the issue of libel law Wednesday in the wake of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which Trump has called a "really boring and untruthful book" full of "made up stories".

Wolff said he relied on interviews with insiders and Trump himself to write the book. In 2009, a New Jersey judge dismissed a $5 billion suit brought by Mr. Trump against a biographer, Timothy L. O'Brien; Mr. Trump had claimed that Mr. O'Brien understated his personal wealth.

Trump has said he could support a revised DACA bill in exchange for immigration reforms that would include a U.S./Mexico border wall.

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Image Zoom

In the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump also threatened to sue women who accused him of misconduct, as well as the New York Times, but he never followed through on those threats, either.

The president's personal lawyer reportedly filed a defamation Tuesday against BuzzFeed and the firm behind the explosive dossier that laid out ties between Trump and Russian Federation during the 2016 election.

"He's trying to usurp the judiciary, and it's not going to work", Roth said. 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.

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".

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