He said this in the course of announcing the launch of the Andrew McCabe Legal Defense Fund, which I thought already existed. Surely McCabe won’t even need a defense fund once he lands that book deal he’s been shopping around for.

Pitching the left to send him their money while he’s also saber-rattling about suing Trump is a pretty crafty pitch, though!

And let’s face it. Watching a man who’s repeatedly called for loosening libel laws suddenly forced to shield himself with the high standard of “actual malice” as a libel defendant would be amusing.

Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is looking to sue for defamation, wrongful termination and other possible civil claims, his lawyer told reporters Friday…

Timing: Bromwich said McCabe’s legal team has yet to work out a timeframe for when they plan to file the suits, but the team “want[s] these to be solid. We’ll file when we’re ready.”

Bromwich also accused McCabe’s opponents, including President Trump, of “continuing slander”:

“We’ve never seen anything like this before. It does damage not only to Andy McCabe individually but also to the FBI as an institution.”

McCabe’s mad at Comey too for some of the things he’s said, his lawyer noted, but he thinks that’s a product of faulty memory, not of deliberate deception by Comey. As for Trump, it’s not clear which of his statements McCabe thinks might be grounds for a defamation suit. The one he always gets dinged for by factcheckers is insisting that McCabe’s wife got $700,000 from Hillary Clinton for her state political campaign in Virginia in 2015:

Jill McCabe got ~$500,000 from a PAC controlled by Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe, who was governor of Virginia at the time, and another ~$200,000 from the state Democratic Party. She got nothing from Hillary. And McCabe had already lost her election by the time Andrew McCabe took on a supervising role in the FBI’s Clinton Emailgate investigation. Trump is insinuating, although not clearly stating, that he thinks McCabe was on the take: Because ClintonWorld was good to McCabe’s wife, McCabe decided to return the favor by giving her a pass on the email probe. (Never mind that McCabe is in trouble right now for allegedly lying about a news story towards the end of the campaign in which he strained to make clear that the Clinton Foundation *was* being investigated by the FBI.)

McCabe, as a public figure, would need to show that Trump either knew what he was saying was false or that he was saying it with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity. “Reckless disregard” is a solid description of Trump’s tweeting generally, but POTUS would claim that he was honestly confused about who gave Jill McCabe money and when Andrew McCabe took over the probe. And he’d point to the fact that he never directly accused McCabe of doing favors for Clinton or her campaign. (Or has he directly accused him and I forgot?) To the extent that he got his facts wrong, in other words, he’d say he was negligent. And if all you are is negligent in defaming a public figure, you’re in the clear. Even though in this case the “public figure” would-be plaintiff is having untruths told about him to a global audience by the most famous man in the world.

It’s surprising that Trump hasn’t been sued for defamation by more of the people whom he attacks on Twitter given how free and easy he is with the truth and the amount of opprobrium it brings down on his target from the right. The Paula Jones sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton established that a sitting president can be sued civilly, so there’s no institutional bar to filing. Because Trump holds grudges and makes no bones about it, there’s always a chance that when he gets his facts wrong, he’s doing it deliberately to damage his enemy rather than negligently. (McCabe will certainly seek discovery of communications between Trump and others to try to prove that if he sues.) Damages could be hard to prove, but because of Trump’s enormous political influence over the right, one of his targets could always try to show that they’ve lost business from right-wing outfits because of the stigma from his attack. If nothing else, a credible defamation suit filed against the president might sober him up about his tweeting habits, just as getting sued has apparently sobered Alex Jones up about what really happened at Sandy Hook.

Has anyone prominent sued Trump for defamation that I’m forgetting? Summer Zervos, one of the women who claims he harassed her, is. Stormy Daniels is reportedly considering it, and now McCabe. James Comey has never said anything about suing, though, even though the chief federal law enforcement officer in the land recently tweeted that he belongs in jail. You would think that Comey, so eager to stand up for norms and values, might sue him just to teach him a hard lesson about proper presidential decorum. There’s just one wrinkle. What if the DOJ Inspector General agrees that Comey belongs in jail? Truth is an absolute defense to libel!