Trump campaign sues CNN for libel over opinion piece alleging Russian help is 'on the table' in 2020 (Update)

Fox News is reporting the Trump re-election campaign has sued CNN for libel over an opinion piece which claimed the campaign decided to leave the option of seeking Russian’s help “on the table” in the 2020 election:

“The complaint alleges CNN 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… the campaign filed this lawsuit against CNN and the preceding suits against The New York Times and The Washington Post to hold the publishers accountable for their reckless false reporting and also to establish the truth,” Senior Legal Adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Jenna Ellis told Fox News…

The complaint said that Trump’s legal team sent CNN a request to retract and apologize last month but CNN executives refused. The Trump campaign now seeks “millions of dollars” through litigation…

Larry Noble’s CNN story, headlined “Soliciting dirt on your opponents from a foreign government is a crime. Mueller should have charged Trump campaign officials with it,” was labeled as an opinion piece and featured a disclaimer that Noble is a CNN contributor but the commentary is solely his own view. However, the piece states that Trump’s campaign “assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table” as a fact and was still on CNN’s website as of Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit specifically cites this line which is the penultimate graph of the article: “The Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.” The lawsuit states, “The Defamatory Article does not cite to any facts or reasoning in support of this claim. The Defamatory Article is false.” The lawsuit also argues that the author should have known this claim was false because the campaign had “repeatedly and openly disclaimed any intention to seek Russian involvement in the 2020 election.”

This is the third lawsuit the campaign has filed against a major media company. Earlier this week the campaign filed a similar lawsuit against the Washington Post:

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, centers on two opinion articles from a Post blog called The Plum Line that accused the 2016 Trump election campaign of inviting help from foreign governments. The Post’s opinion section operates separately from its newsroom.

In one post, published on June 13, Greg Sargent wrote that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, had “concluded that Trump and/or his campaign eagerly encouraged, tried to conspire with, and happily profited off” Russia’s efforts.

In a post on June 20, Paul Waldman wrote: “Who knows what sort of aid Russia and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign, now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?” The word “invited” in the article was hyperlinked to a transcript of an ABC News interview with Mr. Trump, in which he said he would consider accepting information from a foreign government about a political opponent.

And last month the campaign also sued the NY Times for libel over an opinion article published in 2019:

The lawsuit concerns an essay published by the Opinion section of The Times in March 2019. The article, headlined “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo,” was written by Max Frankel, who served as executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994…

In the essay, Mr. Frankel wrote about communications between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russian emissaries in the lead-up to the 2016 election. He concluded that, rather than any “detailed electoral collusion,” the Trump campaign and Russian officials “had an overarching deal”: “the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy.”

The Trump lawsuit argues that this conclusion “is false” and that The Times published the essay “knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers.” The suit also accuses The Times, without evidence, of harboring “extreme bias against and animosity toward” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.

I’m not an attorney so I won’t pretend to know if Trump has a case here. I do think the evidence of collusion in 2016 is basically all coming from the discredited Steele dossier. And the claim that Trump is leaving collusion on the table in 2020 is a big allegation that really ought to be backed up by something. It will be interesting to see what happens with all of these lawsuits.

Update: No response from CNN but here’s the reaction from Brian Stelter.