Legal eagles are invited to correct me but the chances of actually winning this suit are somewhere between zero percent and … zero, no?
But then, suing isn’t really the point here.
The ads, which are backed by $1 million, went up last week in the early caucus state of Iowa. They highlight Trump’s previous liberal positions and allege that “he’s really just playing us for chumps.”
Alan Garten, Trump’s general counsel, addressed a letter to Club for Growth President David McIntosh calling the ads “completely disingenuous” and “replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements and downright fabrications which you fully know to be untrue.” Garten also pushed back on the group’s claim that Trump supports raising taxes, saying the ad’s source material actually dates back to 15 years ago.
“Mr. Trump does not support higher taxes. This is the very definition of libel,” he added, before noting that Trump would, conveniently, release his own tax plan next week.
TPM has a PDF of the cease-and-desist letter in case you want to read it in full. A taste:
The ad they’re complaining about, which had fewer than 100,000 views on YouTube as of early this afternoon, is this one, I believe, claiming that Trump “supports higher taxes.” Not true, says Team Trump; he used to support a one-time tax of 14.25 percent on the superwealthy 15 years ago but no longer does, so it’s libel to use the present tense. By that logic, I suppose it’s libel to claim that Marco Rubio “supports” comprehensive immigration reform despite his work on the Gang of Eight bill because he currently believes CIR is unfeasible in Congress. Besides, Trump said less than a month ago in an interview that he’d lower taxes on the middle class but “would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars-a-year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it’s outrageous.” A few weeks before that, he told Sean Hannity that he believes in a progressive income tax that would tax the rich more; when Hannity asked him what the cap would be, Trump told him he’d figure it out. All of which is to say, the Club for Growth’s defense in court would be that it’s absolutely true that Trump supports higher taxes even at this very moment — specifically, he supports higher taxes on the rich. Is a judge going to let a case like this go to trial because the Club didn’t stipulate which taxpayers will be paying more in their ad? Or is he going to throw this out of court on grounds that it simply doesn’t qualify as false for libel purposes and that a billionaire who’s hot to challenge the claim could run his own counter-ads?
The Club’s response:
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) September 22, 2015
So why make a stink about it if Trump’s unlikely to win? You know why. It’s PR. This is his way of reminding supporters that he’s a fighter, one of the things they like most about him, and it’s also a way to preempt the many, many, many attack ads coming from the other candidates about his previously liberal record by suggesting to his fans that they’re somehow unfair even to the point of libel. Even so, I’m not sure why he’d want to force the media into the position of reminding readers that, verb tenses aside, the Club’s right that Trump has held some highly liberal opinions in the past. Better to just ignore the Club’s attacks the way he’s been ignoring Jindal’s and focus on red-meat stuff that matters to conservatives right now, like the Iran deal and defunding Planned Parenthood. For a guy who’s been shrewd lately about picking his political battles, this is an odd choice.